I meant to get into this a couple of weeks back, when it first began making the rounds on the internet. Unfortunately for the author of a study on personal blogging and the media, bad timing prevailed and I felt like I had to shelve his story for a little while, as I had just spent a couple of days working on the piece detailing my return to the Time Warner Center four months after being fired by CNN (The Outsider/6.9.08) and wanted to leave it at the top of the main page for awhile.
I felt awful about doing this, given that my story was apparently the partial inspiration for his decision to contact 250 newspaper editors and ask the following question:
"Would you allow your staff writers, without prior approval, to blog during their free time after work as long as they don’t write about the beats they cover for your newspaper?"
What Simon Owens discovered -- besides the fact that most newspaper editors and publishers can't be bothered to respond to an e-mail if it comes from one of the unwashed masses, as only 39 people responded to him -- was that the issue of personal blogging for members of the so-called mainstream media is a startlingly divisive one.
"Twenty-two — 56% — said they wouldn’t mind if writers blogged on non-beat issues without obtaining permission. The remaining 17 — 44% — either required disclosure of the blog, issued caveats over what subjects couldn’t be covered, or had outright bans on having personal blogs at all."
For my part, I feel like everything I could possibly say about this subject has been said (which is one of the reasons I pushed this story back a couple of weeks; I had originally intended the Time Warner column to bookend my original piece on being fired by CNN and act as a sort of "final word" on the whole thing). But Owens put a good amount of effort -- well thought-out effort -- into gathering these figures, the results of which prove that a clear and specific policy on blogging is imperative in each and every media workplace these days in order to avoid the kind of situation I ran into. What Owens's actions themselves prove, however -- the very act of a blogger reaching out and undertaking a careful survey, then writing a column which pieces together the results -- proves a point that I've been attempting to hammer home for quite a while: true journalism is no longer only the dominion of the major media outlets. Simon Owens used his intellect and his computer to conduct a study which attempts to shed light on a important (and newsworthy) social debate. What's more, he didn't do it for a paycheck -- he did it because he just wanted to know.
It's that kind of curiosity that's the backbone of what a newsperson does every day, and it doesn't require sanction or validation from an official media organization to be considered journalism
(Bloggasm: 44% of Newspapers Wouldn't Allow Staff Writers to Blog During Free Time Without Prior Approval/6.9.08)