It’s no accident that the first chapter of the New-Media Survival Guide is devoted to blogging. It’s my view that there is no better option for a journalist seeking to survive in new media than publishing a blog, particularly a personal blog.
Keeping a blog doesn’t guarantee career success, of course, and as I note in the book, “there is a small but real risk that your blog could get you fired.” Optimist that I am, I put a positive spin on even that risk, but with an important proviso: “getting fired could turn out to be a great career move. But try to make sure that if you get fired, it’s because of your principles, and not because of a thoughtless indiscretion. ”
That’s a lesson I trust Khristopher J. Brooks has recently learned. It’s not a sure thing that his getting fired for blogging even before he started his job will turn out to be great career move. But it is a sure thing that he got fired for an indiscretion rather than for principled blogging.
In a thoughtful blog post on 10,000 Words, Meranda Watling last week laid out seven considerations for anyone concerned about getting the sack for blogging. For those whose clicking finger is sore, I’m going to briefly summarize her seven points here, but otherwise, go read it now.
- “Just do it.” Watling rightly emphasizes that being involved in social media is important enough that you should blog even if your employer expressly forbids it. But if you want to be smart about it, you’ll continue to the next six points.
- “Do not hide it.” Be certain your employer or prospective employer knows about it. They will find out anyway.
- “When in doubt, don’t post it.” If you’re like me, following this rule would mean you’d never open your mouth at all. I have doubts about everything I say. I’d put it this way instead: If you have good reason to believe your employer might object to your post, only publish it if you’re convinced it’s important enough to take the risk.
- “Do not write about your sources. Or your bosses.” In other words, don’t get dooced.
- “Do not scoop your employer.” Dare we hope that’s painfully obvious?
- “Avoid bias, real or perceived.” Well, maybe. Bias is a good thing to avoid. Most of us can’t. Perhaps its too high-toned to put it this way, but I’d prefer to say: “Always write honestly and transparently, whether for your job or your blog.”
- “Be professional.” Watling will get no argument from me on this point. But I’d add that underlying this point is the reality that, these days, it is increasingly hard for us to separate the professional from the personal in our lives. So just as in your personal capacity you have to be more professional, so in your professional capacity you have to be more personal.
It’s a sad reality that there will always be stupid employers who will fire you for no good reason. But with smart ones, misunderstandings can be prevented by following Watling’s excellent advice. Don’t go blogging without it.