Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gettin' Dooced


Unless you are unusually blog-savvy, the title of this post probably doesn't mean what you think it means. According to trusty old urbandictionary.com, the secondary (but way better than the primary) definition of dooced is:
Getting fired because of something that you wrote in your weblog.

"Blogger Heather B. Armstrong coined the phrase in 2002, after she was fired from her Web design job for writing about work and colleagues on her blog, Dooce.com" (Source: Yahoo.com)

Last October, Delta Air Lines flight attendant Ellen Simonetti was fired, she said, for what her supervisor called a misuse of uniform. Simonetti had posted on her personal blog, Queen of Sky (now called Diary of a Fired Flight Attendant), pictures of herself, in her uniform, on an empty plane. Her blog also contained thinly veiled work stories.
One of the first things mentioned during Publishing School's orientation session was that a PS alumni was nearly fired from his job for blogging about the school in a way that was deemed inappropriate. And that is undoubtedly good advice: as long as companies are going to fire employees for their bloggings, it's best to be careful about what you post. But that doesn't mean that such a policy is fair, wise, or unobjectionable.

The doocing case I'm most familiar with went down during April of this year. Christmas Ape, a founding member of the football blog Kissing Suzy Kolber, revealed his true identity when he began being paid for his activities on the blog. Normally, newspapers appreciate accountability. But not here. Christmas Ape, working under the name Michael Tunison, was a local reporter for The Washington Post and was fired within 48 hours of outing himself. A whole bunch of what Ape wrote for KSK wasn't appropriate for publication at WaPo, but, then again, he wasn't writing this material for the Post; he was writing for himself and those who chose to read what he had to say. Businesses obviously reserve the right to fire whomever they want for whatever reason they want, but this case seems a little shortsighted. The struggle of newspapers in the internet era is well documented.



The readership of KSK is a drop in the bucket compared to what WaPo is used to, but it just seems silly to fire a very popular sports blogger who is already working in-house, instead of, you know, giving him his own forum with the paper, maybe attracting a few dozen thousand internet-savvy adult male readers--a group that is increasingly leaving newspapers behind--along the way. But the taint of a blogger was just too much for the paper to handle. But Ape realizes that he is partially to blame here:
Upon sacking, I was told that I brought “discredit to the paper” with my choosing to drink at bars in my free time. Any good journo knows to keep the flask in the desk.
What people do during their free time is their choice. If it doesn't affect their job performance, why does it matter?

Which brings me to another potential doocing case which I admittedly know little about. I know so little about it that I'll repeatedly use words like "allegedly" or "supposedly" and stuff like that. Yeshiva U's newly hired Honors Director is supposedly under some heat for not successfully integrating his department into the general Yeshiva College structure. Allegedly, his hiring practices haven't followed general protocol, failing to gain input from the general faculty of the college. These allegations, if true, sound like serious issues that need to be dealt with. But more recently his alleged blog has been dragged into the discussion. I've perused it , and there doesn't seem to be anything too outlandish on there. Certainly nothing as objectionable as what can be found on KSK. But the point remains the same: if he's doing a good job, then it shouldn't matter what he says on his blog. If he's not doing good things at work, then deal with those relevant issues. Don't drag his blog into this. It has nothing to do with the job he does at work.

Blogs and facebook and who knows what else are going to be around for a while. People are going to express themselves. It's time for employers to get used to it.

UPDATE: Here are a couple links about the YU doocing case:

3 comments:

Josh said...

Do we have evidence that "the blog" was at issue other than hearsay?
I only took a quick glance at this open letter, but it does not seem to mention the blog specifically, nor does it hint to it.
Where does the blog rumour come from?

Avi said...

@josh--
All hearsay. Remember, that's why I kept saying stuff like "allegedly" and whatnot. But, if you follow Link One of the update, you'll find this: "When questioning the school, the students were informed that his blog - Proportional Belief - played a sizable role in the decision." That's from http://serandez.blogspot.com/2008/07/yu-forces-out-professor.html

heightsguy said...
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