When Personal isn’t really Personal
On Tuesday, July 30, a story came out that a reporter at a television station in Alabama was fired for what she posted on her personal blog. It immediately became another instance of: Is what you write on a personal blog really that personal?
To summarize, Shea Allen, the now-former investigative reporter for WAAY in Huntsville, did a blog post, titled, “No Apologies: Confessions of a Red Headed Reporter.” Ms. Allen states in the post that she has gone bra-less during a live broadcast and that she’s taken naps in the news car. You can read the rest of her post by clicking the link above. The post made waves with her station’s management and she was fired. The move made some wonder if this was a violation of Ms. Allen’s first amendment rights.
Reaction to the story has been mainly supportive on Twitter; the comments on her blog appear to be 60-40 in favor of what she wrote. Here’s where I say I understand the personal blog “boundaries,” but for a person in the public eye, it’s not so personal.
Ms. Allen was employed by WAAY, therefore she should have been a more careful in what she posted on her blog, even though it’s labeled as “personal.” We know way too well that despite saying in your Twitter bio “tweets are my own” or “tweets do not reflect my employer’s opinion,” if you say something that isn’t appropriate or can bring bad publicity to your employer, you are going to get in trouble. The same goes for a blog. Did WAAY have something in its contracts with employees that talked about social media or blogging? I’m not sure. In this age of social media and quick posting, it’s necessary to think first, then post.
However, I need to defend Ms. Allen because, unless the reports of previous reprimands are true, this shouldn’t have been a one strike and gone issue. Yes, she re-posted the blog after initially being asked to take it down. Are the things she posted a little out-of-bounds? Maybe. But she’s an award-winning journalist, was respected by her peers, and this certainly isn’t something like the Larry Mendte/Alicia Lane issue in Philadelphia back in 2008. There should have been a suspension, at the least.
This is a teachable moment for young reporters (and even young PR/social media pros): Just because it is labeled “personal,” what you put online (blog, social media, etc.), isn’t personal anymore. It’s public.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.
Posted on July 31, 2013, in Hot Topic and tagged Alabama, blogging, blogging issues, Facebook, fired for personal blog posts, Huntsville, Media, personal blog gets reporter in trouble, Shea Allen, Twitter, WAAY. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.