by Cathy Resmer
In a News Journal op-ed, reporter Al Mascitti sort of defends fired Dover Post reporter Matt Donegan. He also includes an interview with the Post's editor, Don Flood. Flood explains why he fired Donegan:
"Delaware is a small place," Flood said... "I knew this was going toget out there. I couldn't very well have Matt cover [an event such as]an NAACP meeting. If they objected, I couldn't very well say, 'Hey, youhave to lighten up a little bit.' "
The greater sin, Flood said,involved the publishing of newsroom meetings. "I can't have somebodydiscussing comments in the office about some of the stories we're goingto cover, and reasons we may or may not cover them."
But Mascitti concludes by saying he can understand why bloggers are upset. The internet, he points out, is one of the last places people have freedom of speech. He cites Cindy Sheehan's ridiculous arrest at the state of the union as evidence that our freedom of speech is eroding.
Ok, let me be clear. I agree that our freedom of speech in this country is imperiled. No argument there. But I don't have a lot of sympathy for this guy. Are any of us entitled to say whatever we want on our blogs regardless of how that will impact our employers? Unless our employers know and approve, I don't think we are. You wouldn't stand in front of your boss and badmouth your company and your job. You wouldn't badmouth the company on TV or in the newspaper and still expect to have a job. Why would you think you could do that online? Bloggers have to use common sense, just like anybody else. Maybe the courts will decide otherwise, but I doubt it.
That editor is absolutely right to ask how readers would feel if that reporter covered an NAACP meeting. That's a legitimate concern. Believe me, if I found out that a Burlington Free Press reporter talked about his job on some racy blog using his or her real name, I think that would be news. Likewise, if I found a blog by a Burlington cop, or an elected official, or a teacher that was racist or homophobic or pornographic, I would point it out. If you're putting one face out to the public, it's news when you show a different face online. Period.
That said, it's worth noting that the editor could have avoided this whole kerfuffle if he had known about Donegan's blog and talked with him about it. Why didn't the editor have a blogging policy in place? Why didn't he talk about online publishing etiquette with his staff? I'm sure they talked about the protocol for writing for other publications. It just boggles my mind that people in the media don't think about this.