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"Happy, fluffy, rainbow stories about good things make me depressed"
July 30, 2013 - Liz Skoczylas
Last Friday, a news reporter from Huntsville, Ala. was fired from the television news station she worked for, an affiliate of ABC.
Shea Allen, a now-unemployed journalist, has written a total of 12 blogs on her personal website in the two years she has worked for WAAY-TV. Last week, she was called in to speak with her bosses. And, according to Allen, she was fired after they handed her a copy of her latest blog, entitled "Confessions of a Red-Headed Reporter:"
1. I’ve gone bra-less during a live broadcast and no one was the wiser.
2. My best sources are the ones who secretly have a crush on me.
3. I am better live when I have no script and no idea what I’m talking about.
4. I’ve mastered the ability to contort my body into a position that makes me appear much skinner in front of the camera than I actually am.
5. I hate the right side of my face.
6. I’m frightened of old people and I refuse to do stories involving them or the places they reside.
7. Happy, fluffy, rainbow stories about good things make me depressed.
8. I’ve taken naps in the news car.
9. If you ramble and I deem you unnecessary for my story, I’ll stop recording but let you think otherwise.
10. I’ve stolen mail and then put it back. (maybe)
This interested me for several reasons. One, it involves a female journalist. Two, it involves a personal blog.
Since this whole Internet thing caught on, social media has become an increasingly popular way to gather information and find sources. When I was in college, I was taught that it was COMPLETELY unprofessional to use Facebook to get in touch with a source. Now, the Associated Press Stylebook that sits on my desk has an entire section of social media guidelines.
I've been a card-carrying (not really) member of Facebook since 2005, a year and a half after it was founded, back when you still needed a college email address to be a member. I have had a twitter account since 2008. This is my only blog (unless you count the xanga account I had in high school...) and I've been blogging here for about a year now.
From doing some light research (Internet stalking) I have discovered that Allen graduated from college the same year I did, 2009, presumably making her around my age. Like me, she also studied communication.
Because Facebook was relatively new when I was starting college, it was drilled into our heads, "Do not put anything on Facebook you wouldn't want a future employer (or your RA) to see." I would think that logically extends to other forms of social media and blogs.
Allen isn't the only one to have been fired over blog posts. It happens more frequently than I would expect. There have been teachers fired for complaining about students in their blogs. There was a Delta flight attendant who was fired after she posted pictures of herself in uniform to her blog. A teenager from Texas did jail time for a sarcastic comment he made on Facebook. There are articles about questionable Facebook photos getting people fired, even if they weren't working at the time.
My question is, where is the line drawn? When does work stop being work? Is it ever OK to vent about your workplace online? That's more than one question. Sue me.
I want to know, what makes me -- a young, female newspaper reporter with a strong online presence -- different from Allen -- a young, female television reporter with a strong online presence. From reading her blog, I can see we are both passionate about what we do. And we both seem to lay on the sarcasm strongly, although, judging from her blog, she seems even more sarcasm-y than me, to the point where I interpret it as rude.
I don't really have an answer to what is separating us. My Facebook feed consists of a crazy amount of pictures of my dog (like, more than any sane person would ever post of their dog). I post online articles I find interesting. I post my gripes about whatever is making me irritated at that particular moment -- whether it's a car driving too slow, or someone I feel is being a jerk -- and the occasional "I wish my source would call me back." My twitter feed is whatever 140-character or less message pops into my head. It tends to be a lot more sarcastic than Facebook.
I don't feel bad for Allen. I think she crossed the imaginary line for what is acceptable to write about your workplace. Even if she was off the clock, even if she was writing on her personal blog, that imaginary line still exists. It's scary, but the truth is anything can get you into trouble, it just takes one person to report it, even if the comment was meant to be funny or sarcastic.
It's unfortunate, but every time a story like Allen's comes around, it's a reminder to keep online comments in check. Just because you can post something doesn't necessarily mean you should.
Allen's blog can be found at: http://sheaallensays.blogspot.com
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