Guidelines for journalists with weblogs.
There is a debate over the right of journalists to maintain private weblogs. It seems to me that journalists have rights in this area, but they also have responsibilities. Use some common sense, respect your employer and your work, and you should be OK. Unless you work for the Hartford Courant, that is.
Hereís a list of ideas for maintaining both a weblog and a job in journalism. Itís not comprehensive or final or legally binding, but itís a start:
Donít dress your weblog in your work uniform
No logos, typefaces, slogans, and so forth from your day job should be used to brand your weblog. I mention my work affiliation as part of my brief weblog bio (along with the dogís name and other vital data), and I mention work when it seems part of the regular blogflow, but I donít try to sell the blog on it.
Donít dip your pen in the company ink
Journalists who work in an office and/or keep regular office hours probably shouldnít use work time or a work computer to report, write, and maintain their weblogs. Many of us got into journalism in part because it tends to be a little less tight-assed than other professions, so this may not be a problem at your shop, but itís best to err on the side of caution (especially if your weblog is sexy, political, or otherwise potentially interesting).
Donít compromise your reputation, or your publisherís
Respect the brand. Every job has some explicit or implicit expectation of the image projected by its employees. If you want to write a pornblog, well, fine, send me the link, but no whining when your editor on the religion beat complains about conduct unbecoming.
Keep your blogging off-beat
Donít compete with your day job, or at least donít scoop your employer. I donít blog much about big technology projects at big companies, because thatís what my paycheck is paying for. Baseline has dibs on interesting stuff I learn in our field, even if I learn it on my own timeónot that they own my downtime or off-hours creativity, but a good journalist is always working. Even if Iím not going to cover it for the magazine, Iím still going to pass it along to my editors in New York. This is a conservative approachódepending on your coverage area, smart editors might encourage you to blog on work topicsóbut itís one way to avoid trouble.
Maintain whatever journalistic objectivity your job requires
The beat reporter who covers the Guilford County commissioners for the News & Record would be wrong to write on his (as far as I know nonexistent) private weblog that the commissioners are buffoons, no matter how clearly that fact comes across in his news stories. (As an op-ed columnist, I donít have that constraint.) The paper has a responsibility to strive for the ever-receding goal of objectivity, and readers have a right to expect it. Plan ahead. If you think you might someday cover sports, you might not want to reveal your (understandable) loathing for Duke basketball.
Loose lips sink careers
This one seems obvious, but for some reason people will say things to the world on a weblog that they wouldnít say elsewhere. Privileged information is privileged. When Ziff Davis sends us news on earnings or other company business Ė even info that is to be made public Ė I wait until it appears on Romenesko or a news site before I consider blogging it.
Try not to be a jerk
If you publicly trash your job, your publisher, your co-workers, your last article, and so on, donít complain when you get fired or shut down for doing it.
Work with the boss if you can
If your publisher thinks your weblog is too close to what you do on your day job, try to get the publisher to adopt the weblog. Make it a win-win. If CNN had co-branded the Iraq weblog maintained by reporter Kevin Sites instead of shutting it down, it would have been great for CNN, Sites, and Ė oh yeah, them Ė people trying to learn about the war.
Fake it if you have to
If you have to choose between your job and your weblog, you could always blog under a pseudonym.