CNN Producer gets dooced

Chez PazienzaChez Pazienza, who used to produce American Morning, got dooced last week. It was sort of an early Valentine’s Day present, I suppose.

This is a guy who recently had a brain tumor removed and is expecting a baby soon. Happy Valentine’s Day!

He wrote of his firing recently:

Right before I hung up, I asked for the “official grounds” for my dismissal, figuring the information might be important later. At first they repeated the line about not writing anything outside of CNN without permission, but HR then made a surprising comment: “It’s also, you know, the nature of what you’ve been writing.”

And right there I knew that CNN’s concern wasn’t so much that I had been writing as what I’d been writing. Whether a respected and loyal CNN producer of four years, like myself, could’ve gotten off with a warning had I chosen to write about, say, my favorite pasta sauce recipes, who knows. I’m dead sure though that my superiors never concerned themselves with my ability or inability to remain objective at work, given my strong opinions; they worried only about an appearance of bias (specifically, a liberal bias), and apparently they worried about it more than any potential fallout from firing a popular blogger with an audience that was already large and was sure to grow much larger when news of his firing put him in the national spotlight.

It’s probably right about now that I should make something perfectly clear: I’m not naive — I always understood that CNN, like any big company, might be apt to fire whoever it damn well pleases so long as the law remains intact at the end of the day.

Should they have fired me though?

You know my opinion on employees who blog. First, with the HUGE emergence of blogs as a popular media, every company should have added clear cut rules in their employee handbooks a year ago with regards to personal blogging. Plus, I’m surprised CNN didn’t have something in their handbook with regards to freelancing, since that’s what you’re doing when you write for another publication whilst employed by another. Second, CNN could have probably avoided being added to the list of companies that have fired people for blogging by simply telling dude to shut down the blog. (Then again, maybe they were already on that list, so its a moot point.)

I believe Chez when he says his credibility nor objectivity were never called into question. Why? I straddle the same line, too. Of course, my views are different from Chez’s, but it doesn’t seem to matter, since my conservative friends have unknowingly made fun of my headlines as being “typically MSM.” Thanks, Karl.

However, with 10 years (almost) of blogging under my belt, I suppose I should probably lay out how I’ve managed to stay employed and blog at the same time.

  • When I started blogging, it was a major novelty. Plus, there was no Google at the time. Plus, Googling yourself or people you know was not a common practice yet.
  • When I was told to stop blogging, I did. I didn’t even keep my archive online; I simply took the whole thing down. Why? I needed my job. I have no one else supporting me besides me and my husband. It wasn’t the greatest job, but I knew I had to hold on to it to get to the next one.
  • When I finally got hold of the next job, I approached the subject gingerly with my boss who hired me. And when he finally started seeing my posts, he was OK with it — whoo! Talk about a weight taken off my shoulders. Even when I got quoted by a local weekly paper on a subject I felt strongly about, that sort of criticized broadcast coverage, not excluding my station’s, he was OK with it — it showed I was active in the community, I think were his words.
  • My blogging topics are mostly restricted to journalism in general, and I think it shows that I still believe in journalism. Especially online journalism. I tend to be a cheerleader, and that’s with a lot of things.
  • I generally do not blog about work — I do not blog about decisions, coverage choices, the process of how we do things. Sometimes I do highlight coverage I’m particularly proud of. And I often take pictures of our company parties and/or from behind the scenes put them online, like beFrank does. Again, its that cheerleader tendency. I like where I work, and I think I contribute, having been a dual citizenship journalist (netizen and mainstream media) for so long.

From an NY Times blog post:

Barbara Levin, a spokeswoman for CNN, said she could not discuss specifics because the network does not comment on personnel matters, but she said in a statement, “CNN has a policy that says employees must first get permission to write for a non-CNN outlet.”

Mr. Pazienza acknowledges that he did not ask permission from CNN to blog, either on his own Web site or on The Huffington Post. He contends that the policy had not been made clear to employees and was overly vague. “It’s purposely set up so they can be subjective,” he said. “Does that mean I can’t post on a MySpace blog that my friends read? Does that mean I can’t post something online to my wife?” He added that he believed he had been dismissed because of his views.

Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is for companies to acknowledge blogging and online activities, like having a Myspace page, a Facebook profile, etc. Sure, a company has a right to fire an employee for whatever reason. But employees also have a right to sue a former employer.

So, to wrap it up, let’s just all agree that you should do these things when thinking about blogging: a) check your employee handbook, b) check with your supervisor who hired/has the power to fire you and c) not blog derogatory things about your work and company.

Anyone else want to pitch in on blogging while being an employee? Feel free in the comments.

Jacked picture of Chez from his Blogger profile 

One thought on “CNN Producer gets dooced

  1. shruti

    I agree with this post completely, but I have to admit I sometimes wonder where the line is between being a human being/citizen of this country/a member of society and being a journalist. I think most journalists agree that we have our own viewpoints–as people who are probably more informed than many people, it’s hard not to! But appearances or not, we still have a job to do and that is to strive to objectively cover the news. It’s our job. Some do it better than others…and the appearance of objectivity is sort of like kowtowing to the segment of the population that views everything through a filter–whether that is a right or a left filter.

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