Watling: 7 Ways to Avoid A Flogging for Blogging

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Do not hide it.” Be certain your employer or prospective employer knows about it. They will find out anyway.
  3. 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.
  4. Do not write about your sources. Or your bosses.” In other words, don’t get dooced.
  5. Do not scoop your employer.” Dare we hope that’s painfully obvious?
  6. 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.”
  7. 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.

Posted in Blogging, Careers & Personal Branding, Ethics | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Job or Your Career? Write A Firing Manifesto

As a journalist, if you don’t get fired (or feel obliged to quit) at some point in your career, you’ve either been unusually lucky in employers or you have chosen not to live up to your own standards and goals. In the worst case, you haven’t even determined what your standards and goals should be. If you haven’t crystallized for yourself the things you’re willing to be sacked for, maybe it’s time to write your Firing Manifesto.

In a blog post today, “Don’t let your bosses’ decisions control your career success or happiness,” Steve Buttry writes that he once “blamed my editors and my companies for the things I didn’t like about my career.” But midway through his career, he realized that he had to take more responsibility for its direction:

“You can’t control everything about your career. But you can control your outlook. I had a lot of success and happiness in the first 20 years of my career. But I’ve had more of both since I changed my outlook and decided I alone would be responsible for my happiness and success.”

Buttry’s main point is not to let “bosses who are stuck in the past” control your career. But though he doesn’t say so explicitly, he also seems to me to be suggesting that if it comes down to a clear choice between saving your job and saving your career, you should choose your career.

Now, I don’t think he means that you should not care about the risk of losing your job, or that there aren’t circumstances where you should bend on your principles. As he suggests, there are plenty of ways you can advance your career outside of your job, if necessary.

But I think it’s a useful career exercise at least to think about what things you’d be willing to get fired for, and ideally to write them down.

Be reasonable, though. I’m suggesting you write a Firing Manifesto, not a Diva Declaration. Every job requires some degree of compromise, and you shouldn’t always get your way. But what are the core principles over which you’d be willing to challenge your bosses and risk losing your job? It’s better to clarify them for yourself now than to try to figure them out in a moment of crisis.

It’s unlikely that such a personal manifesto would have played a role in what happened yesterday to journalist Khristopher J. Brooks. He surely was unaware that writing on his blog about getting hired by a newspaper could get him fired before he even started the job. But it might make him feel better about losing a job at a place where, as Hamilton Nolan suggests, his career would have suffered.

I’ve written before about the perils of equating your job with your career. They aren’t the same thing, and they are sometimes at odds. Often they can be reconciled. But when they can’t, will you be ready to choose between them?

Posted in Careers & Personal Branding | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

5 Things to Know About Pinterest

As I was finishing the first edition of the New-Media Survival Guide last January, I was just starting to hear about Pinterest, the now-hot new social media platform. At the time, there weren’t quite enough examples of how journalists were using it to justify adding a section to the social media chapter. Moreover, the spin at the time was that it was a scrapbooking site for women interested in consumer products. Three months later, that’s all changed.

An example of a Pinterest Board: The New-Media Survival KitAlthough it’s never safe to predict how social media platforms will evolve, I’m pretty certain that Pinterest will find a secure spot on the second tier of such websites, along with Tumblr and Google+, among others. For that reason, any journalist trying to stay relevant in the social media will need to understand at least the basics of Pinterest.

For a start, I recommend reading through the articles listed below. (I will be updating them as time goes by.) But in a nutshell, here are five key points to make about Pinterest today.

1. Growth. This is perhaps the most salient point: Pinterest is growing incredibly fast. As writer Jessi Hempel notes in Fortune, since its beginnings in March 2010, its subscriber base has grown by 40% to 50% each month, and it hit its current 17 million unique visitors a month more quickly than Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. And as a driver of traffic to websites, it already outdoes Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined, and is just a hair below Twitter. Put simply, Pinterest is becoming too big to ignore.

2. Purpose-built for curation. Though it has understandably been described as a scrapbooking site, it’s better thought of as curation tool and social bookmarking site, or as Rex Hammock puts it even more fundamentally, a link blog. But it is distinguished from platforms with similar goals,such as Tumblr or Delicious, in the two ways covered in points 3 and 4.

3. Visual orientation. As the scrapbooking metaphor suggests, Pinterest is highly visual in its orientation. If your blog post doesn’t have a decent visual, you’re not likely to get pinned by a Pinterest user. Geoff Livingston puts it this way: “Regardless of Pinterest’s long-term success, it’s clear the visualization revolution is upon us. Every online marketing team needs to look at how to make content more visual.” In addition, as Sarah Kessler points out, Pinterest’s design is visual as well, breaking dramatically from the design approach of platforms like Tumblr or the typical blog. If you want to organize your collection of links with tags, or arrange them hierarchically, forget it. You have pictures on a board, and that’s it.

4. Minimal text. In keeping with its emphasis on the visual, Pinterest minimizes the amount of text you can devote to any pinned item. Its 500 characters is several times more than what Twitter allows, but half of what you can add on Delicious. If you’re the chatty sort, you’ll prefer Tumblr, but most curators, I think, want to pin it, quickly label it, and be done.

5. Focus on interests, not ego. Unlike Facebook, Pinterest is based not on the social graph, but what David Rogers calls the “interest graph.” As Courtney Lowery Cowgill says, Pinterest’s main organizing principle is based on what you like, not whom you know: “It’s personal, certainly, but for your sake, not really for anyone else’s. Most of the people on Pinterest I’ve chatted with have told me that they use it for themselves, and no one else.” That’s important for journalists as a discovery tool and for publishers as a referral source. It’s all about links and the ideas and images they point to.

Pinterest is not for everybody, and its value to journalists will probably depend on their interests and the fields they cover. But what it aims to do, it does very well indeed. It is clearly not the next Facebook, but it seems likely to become a social media fixture for the foreseeable future.

Articles on Pinterest

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