Monday, August 5, 2013

Not THAT 50 Shades of Gray

 Is it just me or is it becoming increasingly more difficult to discern between who is right and who is wrong?   What is fair or unfair?  No matter what the topic, the proponents are seeing it one way and the opponents are resolute in their convictions as well.  Things have become very complicated.

Thought Number One:  Saying Too Much

Take for example, this week there is the story of a news reporter out of Huntsville, AL that was fired for things she wrote in her personal blog.  Yes, Shea Allen was expressing her personal opinions on her personal blog about her job.  Unfortunately, she like millions of other people, assumed she had the right to say whatever she wanted under the auspices of her First Amendment Rights.

Shea wrote a post on her blog,  No Apologies: Confessions of a Red Headed Reporter, where she stated among other things that she is frightened of old people.

 Shea's boss wasn't feeling the love as far as Shea's blog goes and he certainly didn't find any humor in it.  Along with firing her, he released a statement saying that she did irreparable harm to the station's image.

Now, instead of being the reporter...she is the reported.  Shea has done a number of interviews in the past week saying that she feels it is unfair that she was fired.  She goes on to say, that all of her statements were supposed to be quirky and funny.

Again...her boss wasn't laughing.

In an interesting article by Ruth Carter of the Carter Law Firm, who coincidently is an attorney that specializes in legal issues stemming from social media,   brings up some interesting points. While a person may have the right to say whatever they want, an employer in a at-will state may legally choose to fire someone for anything he chooses as long as it isn't about a protected area (i.e. gender, race, religion, disability etc.)  Unfortunately for Shea, making bad jokes about her job isn't a protected area.

Ruth, who has her own blog, says there is a lot a gray area in social media disputes. Not only does her law firm handle such cases, she has a book out The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to Get Sued, Fired, Arrested or Killed.

So...who is right and who is wrong?   My personal opinion is she crossed a line by talking about her job in a negative way using her real name and her actual place of employment. Should she of been fired??? I am wavering back and forth.  She offered to take down  the offending post but is that too little, too late.  Will deleting the post and apologizing undo the damage of negative publicity and public scrutiny brought on by Shea's insensative blog comments?   Overall, everyone should realize that things you put on the Internet are NOT  the same as writing them in your diary. It's out there for the world to see.

Thought Number Two: Sharing Too Much

I don't think Shea is alone in crossing some undefinable line of how much sharing is too much sharing.  That may be unfair as I am also a blogger and you might know more about me than you should or for that matter...more than you care to know.

Still I try to be somewhat mindful of what should remain private for both me and for those of my family members that had no say in my starting this blog in the first place. 

I will tell you...I follow a lot of blogs.  Considering the time I spend reading blogs, it could be said I need to cut back a bit.  I really should cut back on salt, and caffeine too but,  I don't see that any of the three are in harm's way at this point. I was saying..I follow a lot of blogs and am often shocked at how willing some people are to share some amazingly private things.  Now don't get me wrong...sometimes sharing private thoughts about what's happeining in their lives, is necessary depending on the type of blog it is. That is especially true of those that are chronicling illnesses or difficult periods in their life. That is the intent of the blog to channel those thoughts.  I get it.

Another class of blogs that can pretty much get away with anything are the humor blogs. For the most part  I/we know they are trying to be funny.Yeah, I totally get that too.

 However, occasionally a blog will "all but come up and out of the computer to slap me in the face" with it's shocking or explicit subject matter.

Just kidding, of course, we are here for ya!  Blab away!!!

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Just Keepin' It Real Folks said...

In the end I think Shea will end up the victor, get a better job, and more exposure because of all this "controversy" which will work to her ultimate advantage. I never apologize for who I am or for my outrageous personality. As Lady Gaga says, "I was born that way baby". However, my apologies if I've kept you up at night. Like one dude wrote in a comment on my FaceBook page last night, "It's not like I'm gonna be shocked at what you post".

babs (beetle) said...

As far as Shea is concerned, I think it a little unfair to fire her. Warn her and ask her to publish an apology for her 'misguided' sense of humour, on her blog, by all means, but firing her was a little extreme, I think. Then it would have been her choice. Apologise, or not and get fired.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Here's the deal, as I understand it. The first rule of "Blogging 101" is: Never write anything about your employment, boss or colleagues. The second rule is: Never write negative or personal things about anyone you know. And I think the third rule should be: Never write anything you wouldn't want your mother to read. That rule alone would take care of a lot of "oversharing."

Cheryl P. said...

It will be interesting to see if Shea lands on her feet. I think that will depend how SHE handles the situation. I, also, think she was somewhat obtuse in thinking her employers were going to find humor in her post. I always had a sense of the level of what I could get away with as far as my employers go. Some had a sense of humor... some didn't. For those that didn't I might of still done and said the same stuff but I might of made it more anonymous.
I love that you are your "in your face" self. You strike me as a smart enough person to know which lines you can cross and how to handle yourself.
Nothing you have said, has done anything except make me smile and laugh.

Cheryl P. said...

While I think there is a lot of gray area here, initially I thought her employer and her should of been able to work this out without her losing her job. The problem is that as an on-the-air reporter, she is somewhat a celebrity in her town and I would guess that blog is the talk of the town,
I, also, think that is a really smart approach you suggested. Why didn't she write a post of apology or at least an explaination that she was trying to be funny. Even with the firing, it would of cleared the air a bit.

Cheryl P. said...

Debra, that is a genius of a statement!!!! I think some people forget how public this venue of communication is. I, occassionally cringe when bloggers talk so candidly about family members....wondering if that family member is on board with what is being devulged.
Slippery slopes are everywhere in this blogging business.

babs (beetle) said...

We have just lost a TV (celebrity) reporter here in Yorkshire. She was the highest paid, but still wanted more money. They ended up not renewing her contract. I wonder if there was some other underlying reason they sacked Shea? It's very possible.

meleahrebeccah said...

There's another "famous blogger" that got fired from her job - for blogging about her job - and THAT'S what made her famous in the first place, back in 2004. It's NOT all that uncommon to get fired for a personal blog. Which is kind of sad, really. Personally I think a warning should come first - and then firing if the warning wasn't taken seriously. Although - as you stated "everyone should realize that things you put on the Internet are NOT the same as writing them in your diary. It's out there for the world to see." - EXACTLY.

Well - as the QUEEN OF TMI - I am certainly one of those people who shares WAY too much. But I have nothing to hide and no one to hide from, and for me, it's been very therapeutic to put it all out there - especially regarding my health issues. Being that vulnerable online has freed me from the feelings of shame and humiliation I might otherwise be feeling if I had chosen the "suffer in silence" route.

Robyn Engel said...

I don't see anything blatantly offensive in her post, so her employer was being overly controlling and uptight, in my opinion. On the other hand, it's just plain stupid to publicize insulting opinions about one's employer, thereby biting the hand that feeds you. There's a big gray area, I agree, but I don't see how her post even falls into the gray. What am I missing? (Old people ARE scary, because aging and death are scary.)


Chubby Chatterbox said...

So many people wrongly believe that the First Amendment guarantees the right to say whatever you want. It doesn't. It prevents the Federal Government from passing laws restricting your right to say what you want. Your boss can fire you at will for badmouthing him or the company you work for.

Wendy said...

I like 'Debra she who Seeks 'comment below, and totally agree with her. This is Blogging 101. When I write my blog, I reread it with someone else's eyes.I have also asked persons from my family about a particular post, if it includes them. To me, this is all about proper respect for them and for those who read my blog. It would seem that Shea did not think of that last one- respect both for older people and also how her boss would take her humour. while I agree that people should not need to have material 'okayed' by their boss, on the other hand, some jobs are more 'public' than others. Which hers is. Since she is already in media, her blog is part of her personna, and in publishing, everything one does on line is considered part of one's image. Believe me, if she publishes a book she will want to put in both her job as reporter as well as her blog. The trouble with social media is that we have not quite figured out where the line is between home life and work life. There is a line, but that line seems to grow ever thinner. I object to the post title itself "No apologies' because every day life is full of apologizing. We all make silly mistakes every day, often not intentional, and she could easily have apologized on her blog for being hurtful and offensive to older people. Back to respect ,again. So, I know long comment, but it is indeed a challenging topic with the proliferation of social media. Personal/private, much more to think about and comment on.

Oh Cheryl, your opening line "is it just me or is it becoming increasingly more difficult to discern between who is right and who is wrong" was laugh out loud funny. Ah, isn't your blog called The art of being conflicted ;)

Riot Kitty said...

I agree with you on both. If you're going to be yourself online, prepare for the consequences. "I don't do stories about old people" is a lawsuit waiting to happen. I can't believe there is a law firm that specializes in

And also still get blown away by how much personal info. people share.

CaliforniaGirl500 said...

Nothing on the internet may be deemed "personal". Facebook proved that. Those of us who write blogs expect to be taken to task, complimented, criticized, etc. We are, after all, putting it out there.

She sounds young and dumb and way too impressed with herself. But then, there are so many people on the internet doing this. Funny is not being afraid of old people, going bra less, getting what I want because (she's) cute. And most of us don't care; except, of course, her employer.

I agree with the station manager. He/she did the right thing.

Trina said...

Writing a public blog is a fine line. Try not to say too much, still being able to say something. Even rants have to be read a few times. Unfortunantly, if you have a public job you have to take your public blog a little more seriously. That's just life now. The manager made the right decision.

Jo-Anne said...

Yeah such a hard place to be in, I think if a person wants to bitch about their job or work place they should not do so in a way that anyone will know it is her that is doing so............I sometimes share too much on my blogs I think maybe sometimes but really I am not sure.............yeah the fence is digging into my

babs (beetle) said...

But, Meleah, you never expose faults of others. You only ever praise other people. I think exposing all about yourself is your privilege and right and if it works for you, that's great! It's when you slate others off, the problems arise.

Cheryl P. said...

Meleah, Meleah, ......Totally different. Not once, have I ever felt you crossed a line. You talk specifically about yourself or your family and always in very funny upbeat ways. Shea claims her blog was supposed to be funny and it was misunderstood. If you would of written it, there wouldn't of been any would of been hilarious.
The other notable difference is that you don't have your actual name as the title of your blog and announcing who you work for, with that employee being in a very public, veiwer supported type of industry.
As a somewhat anonymous blog, it's one thing for me to say what I hate about real estate but I suspect my broker would have a huge issue if I had my name on my blog and said I don't want to show houses to [insert any group here].
But back to you...We all (especially me) love you and your blog, You may tell us honest feelings and events but they never show a lapse in good judgement. You never portray a shortage of ethics, morality or compassion.

Cheryl P. said...

Totally agree, Babs....Meleah shares with friends but doesn't share information that impinges on others in any negative way.

Cheryl P. said...

I agree that her boss might be the uptight sort that has no room for finding humor in things...but then Shea should of known what her wiggle room was for how much she could say openly about her employer.
I do see some gray in a couple of her comments and the fact she is a local celeb using her real name on her blog,
The fact, she brought up the subject of old people is trickey but she said the word "refuse". She refuses to do stories about them. Had she said ageing is scary that is one thing, personal opinion...but she is talking about not being professional in her job,
That is the crux of her situation, I think. She acted in an unprofessional way talking about not respecting her duties as a reporter. She added to the problem by saying she occassionally dismisses her interviewees, she steals mail, takes naps on the job etc.
I am not convinced this shouldn't of resulted in a reprimand and the post be deleted but I do see some gray area here.
With all that being said...I think you sound like a lovely, open minded person that would see the humor in it. Had she had a different that could of seen it as a reporter trying to have some quirky fun, she might still have her job.

Cheryl P. said...

Isn't that the truth. Out of all the disputes about constitutional rights, this one seems to be the trickiest. You can't yell fire in a theater but the Westboro Church can yell hateful slurs at funerals.
But in Shea's case...I have watched a couple of her post-firing interviews now and the chick is obtuse. She can feign that this was supposed to be funny but she clearly put herself in the light of being unprofessional on the job.
The more she talks the more I tend to side with the boss, In the at will states, he can find an employee that uses better descretion when talking about her employer.

Cheryl P. said...

I, too find Debra's comment perfect for Shea's situation. Personal blogs aren't really personal at all...not really. We put our thoughts out there for the world to see and we make the choice on how transparent we are as to our identies. I, like you, try to be very careful about what I post about my family or friends. They didn't sign up for this blog and I need to respect the fact they might not want their lives put out for everyone to see.
I do think that Shea crossed the line on appropriateness several times in her post. The most blatent one about refusing to work on stories about old people is probably the most offensive but the one about taking naps on the job and stealing mail seem to be fire-worthy on their own merit.
You are always so ensightful with your comments, my friend. Yes, that is an interesting point that the title of her blog says she is not up for apologies. She wants to be "in your face" with her comments. And again, you make a great point about her role as a public figure saying those types of comments.
Absolutely, she is showing a total lack of respect for her employer and her position within the company that pays her salary.
Social is getty to be worse than a few gray's turning into muck and goo.
You might be one of the very few that truly understand the title of my blog as it applies to me. I know I have said this before but it bears are the BEST!!!!

Cheryl P. said...

Hi Riot Kitty, You are one of my commenters that is always the voice of reason. Yes...the minute she brought up a topic of ageism she was treading on shaky ground.
I bet there is a host of business coming to lawyers related to information that shouldn't of been shared. Maybe not to the degree of Wikileaks but certainly there is TMI being posted indiscriminately.

Liggybee said...

Interesting points you brought up! I actually have seen other "personal" blogs of people that work in the public eye or deal with the public on a regular basis. The blogs I've read tended to sound like a public diary, one where they vented their frustrations and thoughts about their job. But personally, I think, that as long as they do not connect it to their real job and make it known (especially if they have a negative opinion about their employer), I don't think it should be cause for dismissal.

After all, their views may be useful to other people in similar predicaments who want to know that they are "not alone" in their feelings. Not everyone can afford to or is able to get to a therapist to "vent" these things so the Internet has become somewhat of a coping resource for many. That's no different really than writing to and getting advice from Dear Abby when the column was just on the newspapers (and not yet on the WWW).

Anyway, have a great week ahead!!! :)

Cheryl P. said...

I am in total agreement about Facebook. FB was a real game changer on people posting every thought that popped into their brains. No holds barred at this point.
Yes, she is young and more than a bit naive, I think. I was initially feeling a bit sorry for her but the more I hear interviews the more I think she is clueless and a bit narcissistic. I think this might be a good lesson to her to think about things from a point of view OTHER than her own.
Really, she backed her boss into a corner when she disclosed that she was being less than professional on the job.

Cheryl P. said...

Yes, I agree, Trina. Even the fact she is saying this is a personal blog as she has her name and job location in full view. By being 100 open with everything...and linking it to her job..can one really think of it as "personal" or does it become a reflection of the station she used to work for.
And she needs to move on and shut up..the more she talks the more insincere she sounds.

Cheryl P. said...

I think you are spot-on, Jo-Anne. If a person is going to use their blog as a forum to vent about their job, they really need to be discreet. I know it's difficult to stay totally anonymous but then Shea wasn't even trying.
Funny line "fence digging into your bum". At least if you share a bit, it's always about your family not about your employer. I know that some of your family has had an issue or two but from out here, I don't think you have shared too much.

Cheryl P. said...

That is the be a bit anonymous...either as to who is writing the blog or who the employer is.
I, too have read some blogs that made me cringe a bit in what they were disclosing but as you said, some of it didn't give particulars and may be helpful to others in that position.
Really, Liggy, it's the personal blogs that talk about their sex lives and spouses that I feel uncomfortable with. I can't believe my husband wants me to give out personal information about us but some blogs really disclose everything,
I do think rants or vents can actually be a positive thing for bloggers and blog readers. There are relationships between bloggers that help sort things out but even then, there has to be some discretion on what one posts in this very open, public, form of communication.
Have a great week, Liggy!

Cheryl P. said...

Yeh, getting greedy for more money, might make you a little at risk for future employment.
As far as Shea goes....With her sleeping during work hours in the car and not wanting to deal with us old people, do you suppose that Shea was secure in her job prior to the blog post?

babs (beetle) said...

Probably not. They may have been waiting for a reason to get rid of her and her post did just that.

meleahrebeccah said...

Oh, totally.

meleahrebeccah said...

"If you would of written it, there wouldn't of been any would of been hilarious"

Aww! Thank you.

I totally agree with you too ­ it's a definite NO NO to write SPECIFIC things about your job!

"it's one thing for me to say what I hate about real estate but I suspect my broker would have a huge issue if I had my name on my blog and said I don't want to show houses"


"You may tell us honest feelings and events but they never show a lapse in good judgement. You never portray a shortage of ethics, morality or compassion"

Good! That's what I always keep in mind when giving TMI!

AletaObrien said...

My husband says I share too much on my blog. I do tend to use it as a journal type. I'm not out for selling things or promoting items. And I do write personally, but I try to keep it upbeat and real. I don't go into politics and religion, but then, those are topics I don't care to discuss in real life either, because people become idiots. Lol.

I live in an at-will state, so I understand the ramifications and swift actions. Sometimes it isn't fair and I think this might have gone a touch too far too fast for the reporter. I hope she still keeps her blog though :)

AletaObrien said...

Oh and I have to admit.... I have a few different blogs - cooking, book reviews, etc... but I do have ONE blog that is totally not affiliated with me, rarely used, but it is more about some of the rotten stuff turned short story (I suck at writing, I'll admit)... it's my vent area, but no comments are allowed, no real names, etc.

Cheryl P. said...

I have never seen anything on your blog that is TMI. Very upbeat and cheerful family stories. I think a blog like your is a great way to keep track of milestones within your family esp. since the birth of little Gregory.

Yes, when one is talking about their employer, even on a personal blog there is the chance that the information is going to get back. I would consider long and hard what I said about someone I work for or with.

This faux pas on her blogs is probably sending it's ranking up through the roof.

Cheryl P. said...

I have always thought it might be interesting to have a totally anonymous blog where I could talk about anything..politics, religion...whatever was was on my mind but I don't want to fight with people. I read some of the hateful comments people leave on other blogs and it keeps me on track of having one for now.

Robyn Engel said...

Thanks for responding, Cheryl. That makes sense. I understand this scenario better now. I didn't realize she's a local celebrity. A person needs to be extra discreet when already in the spotlight. You're right too, she outright "refuses" to write about old people. Of course her employer would take issue with this, given it was a reporter's job she was hired for. Yet she was stating that she would not be open to whatever news she was assigned. Yes, that's gray area verging on black. Thanks again, Cheryl. Be well! Smiles.

Cheryl P. said...

I bet you are right, though, that her now ex-boss has not one drop of a sense of humor. I am really curious if another TV station will take a chance on her. I am sure it will be in the news if she gets another job.

abeerfortheshower said...

See, this is why we both blog the way we do, because Brandon works with his dad and I'm unemployed. Based on the things we've posted, we're damn near unemployable in just about any state.

Cheryl P. said...

The creative talent you show in your blog might, in fact, be a great reason to hire you but to find the right environement where the boss isn't a dick and the job is rewarding...that is the trick.
Hubby and I are both self employed. That way if we piss off our boss our job is still secure. After all the years I worked in various companies, I would be fussy about who I would work for in the future if I ever have to resort to that again.

Dexter Klemperer said...

Speaking as a former employer in an at-will state, yes you can fire someone for any reason; however, if you can't prove the person was fired for cause, the person can collect unemployment and the company will be charged for it. So you should always fire someone for breaking a specific policy as laid out in the employee handbook. And in our handbook, we had a policy that employees could be fired for saying anything negative about the company on the internet.
Having said that, I'm not sure her blog rises to that level and simply taking it down should have sufficed. However, as others pointed out, maybe they really wanted to fire her for other reasons. Plus admitting that she took naps in the company car probably would have been sufficient grounds for dismissal.

Rusty said...

my oh my- I think her boss was wrong to fire her....really! It's not like she took out an ad in the local paper and had her blog printed out for all to read. It's a personal blog with personal feelings. Period. The end. Her boss obviously was looking for a reason to fire her.
Now, I share some stuff on my blog, but nothing too personal and certainly not mentioning names places etc.
I like to have fun with my blog. After all- when we write it's us expressing ourselves and if someone enjoys reading it- all the better!
Thanks for visiting my blog and have a lovely day....!!

Cheryl P. said...

I, have lived in mostly at-will states and I managed the unemployment office in a at-will state so basically, I have seen people fired for a myriad of reasons. Some of those reasons are because the boss is an ass and want's someone gone.

Initially, I was feeling bad for Shea as I can appreciate that a blog is a personal voice but then she did a couple of interviews. I am less inclined to feel sorry for her. She is so naive as to her role in this.

She did, after all, say she was napping on the job, would cut off people during interviews, and steal mail. Had she had this same blog under an anonymous name and a fake name for her employer that would of been one thing but of course that isn't the case.

Maybe the boss shouldn't be reading her personal blog but then it isn't all that personal or private.

Dexter, could it be that I am becoming a surly old bitch and am expecting too much in wanting people to use some common sense?

Cheryl P. said...

Hi Rusty, You sound like such a nice person not thinking she should of lost her job.

The more interviews and articles I see of Shea's the more I think she should of known better than go blabbing anything less than professional about her job or how she handles her job. I have never taken a nap on company time or stolen mail but if I did, I would never put it in writing. I fault her for not using her common sense.

I say some things on my blog of a personal nature I guess but I try never to say anything negative about my family or friends. AND I try to keep everyone anonymous.(well not the subjects of Friday's assorted felons but those are matters of public records) There are those that know who I am but not my extended family or my employer. There is a limit as to what I would be comfortable with discussing.

I love reading other peoples blogs and appreciate those that read mine as well. You, too have a great day!!!

Dexter Klemperer said...

Not at all. If anything, managing an unemployment office would have made you surly. And no you are not expecting too much although these days I do find myself saying a lot: Back when I was your age...