Thursday, May 1, 2008

We're sorry about all the trees

In about two weeks, I will join the ranks of real, professional journalists when I start my new job at a mid-sized daily in the Pacific Northwest. Those of you who know me personally of course know where I'll be working, but I want to be careful not to mention the name of the paper here. I will have to leave Eugene, which is sad, but I'm thrilled to have a "real" job at last.

In the meantime, what I post here will be determined by whether my paper has a policy on blogging. This was the topic of As newspapers today's "Everyday Ethics" column. start taking on summer interns and young employees, the author writes, it is important for papers to decide what their policies are on personal blogs. More and more of the college-aged employees/interns are going to have them, and it is better to set a policy than for anyone to be surprised. The writer also suggests that the interns themselves be upfront about whether they blog. I certainly hope I'll be able to continue blogging in one way or another. Here are some of the suggested policies from the column:

# Write one. Maybe start a blog about policies. But do it now. It's way too late to claim that blogging is just too new of a phenomenon to merit a policy.
# Reconsider your policy if it states: No personal blogs. Telling a 20-year-old he can't blog is like telling a 50-year-old she can't write a holiday letter. You won't win that one.
# Consider what you're comfortable having employees discuss in public:

* Nothing about the newsroom at all? That might be unrealistic.
* Nothing about stories in development? That seems fair.
* Nothing that puts the company in a negative light? Sure, you've got a right to require that, but you might define negative carefully.
* Nothing about sources? Good idea. Journalists who say things about their sources that they wouldn't put into their stories are treading in dangerous territory.
* Nothing embarrassing or negative about your colleagues. (I had a young journalist once ask me if she crossed a line by blogging about a fellow reporter's bathroom habits. Yes, I told her, I thought that was rude. Maybe not unethical, but definitely rude.)

# I counsel journalists who keep personal blogs to employ a no-surprises rule. Always let your boss know if you have a blog. Ask for guidelines, if they don't exist. Never say anything in the blog that you wouldn't say out loud, to the primary stakeholders. This could all be included in a policy.

I also found a fun feature on Poynter in which journalists were asked to submit possible six-word mottos for the profession. My favorite is the title of this post. I may be concerned about the environment, but the one thing I'll be "wasteful" about is newspapers. I recycle them, of course, but I need the paper. After I move, I'll be reading three papers regularly: the one I work for, the large daily in the area, and the weekend New York Times

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