• How Managing Your Online Reputation Poorly Can Get You Fired

    TV Journalist Shea Allen Terminated for Blog Posts

    Managing your online reputation poorly can get you fired, as Shea Allen found out

    How Managing Your Online Reputation Poorly Can Get You Fired: TV Journalist Shea Allen Terminated for Blog Posts (photo courtesy of Shea Allen's blog)

    A poorly managed online reputation lead to the firing of a television reporter because of personal blog posts.

    Shea Allen, a Huntsville, Alabama, special investigations reporter at WAAY-TV, became the story instead of reporting it when she wrote that she claimed to have “gone bra-less”.

    According an to interview posted on The Huntsville Times/al.com web site, Allen was called into a meeting about the blog by station management and was terminated four days after she posted “Confessions of a Red-headed Reporter.”

    From an online management perspective, there are many problems here, such as the main one: don’t post personal information online.

    For example, under the headline, “Hope it makes you laugh,” were:

    “My best sources are the ones who secretly have a crush on me,” and “I’ve gone bra-less during a live broadcast and no one was the wiser,” among other comments.

    One quote from the article is particularly interesting, and brings up an important question:

    “’On the one hand, management wants you to exploit every social media site you possibly can… And then on the other hand, I’ve done something in my personal time on the web, a personally designated space and I’ve been terminated for it.’”

    Businesses often do want, or demand, employees to generate online content to help build their brand.

    But this quote seems to indicate the main problem:

    “’I fight for people’s rights to have freedom of expression. That’s supposed to be what a journalist does. Now, my rights I feel like have been compromised a little bit.’”

    Well, I’m not sure about that.

    This brings up an important question though: can someone be been fired for a personal blog?

    Until this question is worked out, it’s best to be very mindful of what you write online.  Keep these ideas in mind when blogging:

    What You Write Stays Online Forever

    Be aware that everything published online probably will stay online for a long time.  While it’s possible to erase some embarrassing comments or negative posts very occasionally, assume that what you write will be available for everyone.  Things written years ago could come online in the future, such as an old newspaper article or video clip added to YouTube.

    If You Are in a Public Field, Keep Personal Comments Private

    If you are in the public eye, such as a journalist, celebrity, or even business executive, or anyone with a high profile, be especially careful about what you post online.  One wrong Tweet or blog could ruin a reputation, spoil a deal, or get you fired.  When in doubt, don’t post.  If something seems even slightly off color or controversial, think twice about writing about it.

    Even if You Are Right, Lawyers Are Expensive

    Although you might have the right to say anything, defending yourself in a court of law is expensive, and takes a long time.  It also can be a big emotional drain.  As Shea is quoted as saying in the article, ‘”People ask if I’m going to sue. I couldn’t afford a lawyer even if I wanted to.’”

    The Bottom Line

    A poorly managed online reputation can get your fired, even when writing a personal blog post these days, so be careful.

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