Friday, August 01, 2008

On Notice


Believe it or not, I'd really like to let the subject of my untimely dismissal from CNN go once and for all (Say What You Will/2.18.08). As I'm quickly learning now that my new baby is home from the hospital, there really is no sense crying over spilled milk (particularly not when the spill in question happened almost six months ago). Yet every time I promise myself that I'm done bringing up the whole CNN thing, somebody sends me an item like this: Behold, the official memo sent out to all network employees finally stating in no uncertain terms just what CNN's policy is on personal blogging.

You know, the policy they didn't have in place when they made the decision to fire me and a few others like me, and the one that I've openly criticized them for neglecting to enact and clarify?

This was e-mailed to me by someone at CNN yesterday. Enjoy it -- many Bothan spies died to bring us this information.*

***NEW CNN POLICY REGARDING PERSONAL WRITINGS ONLINE***

We’ve gotten a number of questions from CNN staff wanting clarification of CNN policy on communicating publicly about our work, or on news or public affairs -- on the internet. In Blogs. In Chatrooms. On video sharing sites. On social networking sites.

Below are some of the typical questions -- and our answers. We hope this is helpful to everyone,

After reading -- please don’t hesitate to call or email anyone at Standards and Practices if you have further questions. (See contact info below).

MOST IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER:

UNLESS GIVEN PERMISSION BY CNN MANAGEMENT, CNN EMPLOYEES ARE TO AVOID TAKING PUBLIC POSITIONS ON THE ISSUES AND PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS ON WHICH WE REPORT.

The best rule of thumb is, keep in mind whether what you are doing or saying is "in public." In most cases, what you write online is public or can be made public.

CAN I COMMENT IN A CHAT ROOM?

It depends on what you’re commenting on. A chat room is, of course, a public place. If you identify yourself, or could in any way be identified, then you should not comment on anything CNN reports on. Remember, even though you don’t say who you are, someone else might reveal your identity. AND if you’re discussing things that are in the news, keep in mind you could be seen as representing CNN, and therefore you should not comment on the issues CNN covers.

HOW ABOUT MYSPACE, FACEBOOK OR OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES?

Again, on these sites only write about something CNN would not report on. Don't list preferences regarding political parties or newsmakers that are the subject of CNN reporting. Local issues that CNN wouldn’t report on would be OK. And of course private communication with friends or family about issues that aren’t in the news is fine. If you are not sure, ask your supervisor or S&P for parameters on posting. (S&P contact info is listed below).

Also keep in mind that you should not be commenting or writing about what goes on in the workplace at CNN without specific approval by CNN senior managers. For example, in some cases there have and will be exceptions made to have some staff get information out to an outside audience on platforms like Twitter about our upcoming coverage plans.

But without those approved exceptions, your workplace activity is proprietary and so you should not be writing on these sites about what goes on behind the scenes here at CNN.

CAN I POST MY WORK ON YOUTUBE, PODCASTS OR OTHER VIDEO SHARING SITES?

You should not post any CNN material online unless it is approved. Likewise, if you make a short video on your own time, if there’s any question about it being something that CNN might air, first ask someone before posting it. And again, if the subject touches on anything you might cover or CNN reports or may report on, you should likely stay away from it. If it is a close call, ask your supervisor or S&P.

CAN I POST TO iReport.com?

This site was developed specifically for non-CNN material, so no, you shouldn’t. However, a separate procedure has been developed for CNN’ers to send in material. It’s called weReport and you can see the details for how it works at http://sketch.turner.com/wereport. As always, if you capture pictures or video on news stories call the national desk and they’ll help you arrange to feed it in.

HOW ABOUT SECOND LIFE?

CNN’ers are encouraged to visit Second Life, just keep in mind it’s a public place and the same rules (listed above) apply as they would to “real” public life.

CAN I HAVE MY OWN WEBSITE OR BLOG?

Yes. But you should notify your supervisor about it, to have it cleared as a non-conflict for your work. Your supervisor may choose to then have it cleared at another level or by S&P. And again, you shouldn’t post commentary on anything you might cover in your work or CNN may report on, or write about the CNN workplace or post CNN material without permission by a senior CNN manager.

WHAT ABOUT POSTING LINKS TO OTHER WEBSITES, ARTICLES FROM OTHER PUBLICATIONS AND VIDEO FROM OTHER SOURCES?

Again, if your web activity clearly shows that you are taking a position on an issue CNN reports on or is likely to report on, you should avoid such activity.

In addition, you should not operate under an alias on your website or blog in order to participate in biased public behavior. Despite your use of an alias to express a view that may present a conflict of interest, it is still your opinion. Your real identity and occupation could be revealed by someone else at any point.

WHY SHOULDN’T I COMMENT ON NEWS OR CURRENT AFFAIRS?

Unless given permission to comment publicly on the issues or people we report on as a CNN analyst or commentator, it is important that you and all other CNN employees be independent and objective regarding the news and people that we cover.

If you publicly declare your preference for issues or candidates or one side or the other of the public policy issues CNN reports on, then your ability to be viewed as objective is compromised.

We appreciate that everyone has a life outside work and we encourage all of our employees to get involved with the issues that are important within their communities. That said, you need to avoid any appearance of bias or partiality. It’s just one of the responsibilities associated with working for a news organization.

WHAT IF I DON’T WORK DIRECTLY WITH NEWS GATHERING OR NEWS REPORTING BUT ELSEWHERE WITHIN THE SUPPORTING DEPARTMENTS OF CNN?

In discussions about this issue with your colleagues across CNN, it was felt by them that it was important to have this policy apply across the board. If you don’t follow this policy, and you are officially a CNN employee, the loss of objectivity won’t just apply to you, but could be associated with CNN. Therefore this policy applies to all CNN employees in all departments worldwide.

WHAT ABOUT FREELANCE EMPLOYEES AND INTERNS?

Supervisors should make sure freelancers and interns read this policy now -- or on their first day going forward -- and commit to following it.

CAN I GIVE SPEECHES, OR WRITE ABOUT CNN?

CNN reserves the right to say who gives speeches or makes personal appearances on behalf of CNN. A number of your colleagues do give speeches to schools, colleges, and other organizations. Those requests must first be approved by your supervisor and then will go through CNN PR for review. PR will bring them to S&P for final review and approval taking into consideration who the invitation is from, the subject matter to be discussed -- and/or whether travel expenses/an honorarium are being paid. Our employees write books, and occasionally do other outside writing, but it all must be approved by your supervisor first, and then by PR and by S&P as appropriate. This policy is outlined in Section E of the Standards & Practices Policy Guide. Every employee should have a Guide and should read it and review it. (If you don't have a Guide, please ask your HR representative for one.)


Considering my own story, I love that last line -- just love it.

Speaking of which, let's recap: I publicly chastise the managers of CNN's American Morning on this site and on the Huffington Post and within two weeks the show's EP is fired, followed shortly by his second-in-command. I point out the incompetence of that same show's main copy editor and, likewise, not long after, he's sent packing. Now this: I spend six months claiming that whether they consider it a matter of common sense or not, CNN's upper-level managers must make their stance on the blogging and online networking of staff-members crystal clear (as news outlets like the New York Times have already done), and they finally cave in and do just that.

At this point, I think I can probably get away with charging CNN a consulting fee (although I suppose Jon Stewart could say the same thing about his role in getting Crossfire canceled a few years back).

Regardless, it's about goddamned time, guys. Welcome to the 21st century.

Oh, and I await your Cease & Desist order. Just be glad I edited out Rick Davis's personal phone number.

*The one and only Star Wars reference I'll ever make on this site.

29 comments:

Ben Fleming said...

"Again, on these sites only write about something CNN would not report on. Don't list preferences regarding political parties or newsmakers that are the subject of CNN reporting."

Wow, you can get fired for stating facts on your friggin' Facebook page. Classy.

Deacon Blue said...

I'm still trying to get past the fact that freelancers are expected to follow these policies. (Of course, they refer to them as "freelance employees," which is an oxymoron if I've ever heard one.)

Maybe they can find a way to extend these policies to the viewers of CNN, too.

RottweilerTOM said...

Chez, this company-wide policy is ridiculous and overkill . Who the fuck cares. If a copy editor or producer for that matter publishes a blog venting opinions and insight . Unless he says who he works for, or its Anderson Cooper's personal blog, how the hell do I find out who the person works for? Even worse, as a mature adult do I think that you can have your opinion and somehow that would effect tge way I see the entire news organization and its purpose to be objective. Look, lawyers defend murderers they know their client is guilty, yet defend and assert all defenses. The point is as a professional you simply do your job despite your feelings to the contrary and this policy is nothing short of over the top administrative bullshit, aside from the fact that I bet there is no empirical evidence which necesscitates such a dick policy!

RottweilerTOM said...

Chez,I am holding you to your word that this is the last posting on CNN and your fucked up firing

Anonymous said...

oh, come on, chez...! there are plenty of star wars references to be made that don't come from the second trilogy.

celery said...

are employees allowed to register for political parties or make donations to parties? what about belonging to cause-based groups, or giving money to charities which could be interpreted as having a political slant? what if such membership or support could be construed as commentating on issues/news that appear on cnn?

could an employee belong to the NRA? Volunteer for Greenpeace? could an employee give a non-anonymous donation to a pro-choice group? could one attend a march in support of the bill against the anti-gay funeral protesters?

i am curious how far they'd be willing to take the desire to have no employees "comment" publicly on any news or issues discussed on CNN. Writing and speaking are obviously not the only ways that one can express an opinion.

i realize that they address these questions under, "Why shouldn't I comment on news or current affairs"? But there seems to be a contradiction in claiming that credibility as an objective newsperson requires the appearance of complete neutrality to EVERYTHING, and then encouraging people to "get involved with the issues that are important to them."

to be honest, i trust journalists more when i know their political leanings. it is easier to judge how objective their commentary/presentation/analysis is when i have an idea of who they are and what they believe.

CNN's audience should be insulted by the assumption that so long as nobody says how they really feel, then none of us will suspect that anybody really feels anything.

Chez said...

And that's exactly what it all comes down to -- defrauding the audience by attempting to convince it that just because it can't see the bias, there is no bias.

I'll be getting into the details of this memo in the next couple of days, and what they mean for viewers, readers and journalists themselves. For now though, suffice it to say that CNN's stance, while understandable, is laughably ineffective and unfeasible -- not to mention completely dishonest.

b80vin said...

Perhaps O'Reilly, Krauthammer, Limbaugh et. al. could also charge a consulting fee. Their declarations of the "liberal" media led to the fears that have Grace and especially Beck howling conservative cant, and the over arching fear that the personal opinions of staff can be used as a weapon. If I recall correctly some on-air anchor named Edward R. Murrow contributed to the end of a national disgrace by broadcasting his subjective and intelligent political stance. When was that? I remember something about a Golden Age....

kelley said...

And again, if the subject touches on anything you might cover or CNN reports or may report on, you should likely stay away from it.

"Or may report on"... what, because they're [employees] psychic?

honestly... for all that blather, the powers-that-be are basically saying: don't get online.

Jacki Schechner said...

I have to admit that after reading this, I have never been more excited to not be working there anymore. Talk about corporate control. Can you say stifling, boys and girls?

It's nice to be human again and allowed to voice a real opinion without having to run it by someone else - especially someone I neither respect nor admire nor trust.

If this doesn't make you feel better off for having been let go, then nothing will. Count your blessings for this one, baby.

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

I spend six months claiming that whether they consider it a matter of common sense or not, CNN's upper-level managers must make their stance on the blogging and online networking of staff-members crystal clear (as news outlets like the New York Times have already done), and they finally cave in and do just that.

You're like a modern-day Martin Luther, man.

Agatha said...

And of course private communication with friends or family about issues that aren’t in the news is fine.

Wow. Just... wow. Apparently once you sign on with CNN, you can no longer have private communications with family and friends about issues that ARE in the news.

Unfuckingbelievable.

Aaron X said...

Un-fucking-believable!

My friend in Brussels, Belgium, who not long ago got divorced and is on her own with a new baby, apparently just got fired from her job because she mentioned her boss's name in a blog post.

Fired

I haven't talked to her yet, so I really can't believe this, she just got back on her feet after the divorce, and returned to her job a few days ago after maternity leave.

Bastards!

schwa242 said...

CNN’ers are encouraged to visit Second Life

Um... what?

To me, that's about on par with saying, "CNN'ers are encouraged to play Worlds of Warcraft," or "CNN'ers are encouraged to hang out in coffee shops." Thanks for the encouragement guys!

Ike said...

What if you write about something CNN has never covered -- and suddenly because of other bloggers picking up your theme it becomes a story?

Can CNN fire its own employees for retroactive communications?

"...you shouldn’t post commentary on anything you might cover in your work or CNN may report on"

Since "news" is potentially all-encompassing, the above clause is ripe for abuse.

If you work for CNN, it looks like it's all LOLcats and recipe blogs for you!

Anonymous said...

Who are they kidding? Since when has CNN ever been objective? Their reporters and anchors constantly show bias in favor of Obama.

As far as the

"...you shouldn’t post commentary on anything you might cover in your work or CNN may report on"

Are they now requiring their employees to be able to tell the future?

Anonymous said...

You really are a bitter person.

You couldn't cut it at CNN... now you do nothing but whine.

There's a new saying, stealing from an old one, "Those who can, DO... those who can't, BLOG"

Grow up and get a real job so that new kid of yours will have a reason to be proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Does this include comments made by Klein in online forums? Does this include what Klein wrote here? Does it include the stupid "leaks from a CNN insider" on TVNewser, who we suspect is Klein? Does it include the nonsense that Klein leaks to Gawker, Jean Charlton and other places to promote Anderson Cooper?

Does it include these emails that Klein sends out for Anderson Cooper? Notice the hubris, snotty tone and full sentences.

"From:
"Cooper, Anderson"
To:
"Missy Hill" paragon1920@yahoo.com

I don’t know who you are, nor do I care. Apparently you think I have a shred of interest in any thought you may have. I do not. Your emails will now be automatically blocked. Feel free to change the channel."

"Also keep in mind that you should not be commenting or writing about what goes on in the workplace at CNN without specific approval by CNN senior managers."

This is the most disturbing line of all. What exactly are they trying to hide? What is the CNN senior manager doing that he doesn't want people to know about? What has he done in the past? What level will he go to, to get what he wants most for himself, fame? Just how psychotic is Klein?

Anonymous said...

Is this shit even legal? They should just fire all the humans and get fucking robots to run the place. That way, corporate would be safe from all this dangerous "personal opinion" stuff, and the folks who work there wouldn't have to sacrifice their souls in exchange for a paycheck.

Chez said...

@ Anon 2:40PM

Thanks for reading Jon, and for taking the time to write. : )

Anonymous said...

Is Klein a control freak by any chance?

nick.spiva said...

I believe that viewers would be presented with a much clearer understanding and knowledge of the news and issues if the reporters stated "this is my opinion, and this is what happened" rather than attempting to peddle some sort of false objectivity which seems to be the trend these days.

lamapper said...

This just makes you believe that there IS A MEDIA BIAS! Otherwise they would not get so upset when someone expresses themselves.

CNN just want's their BIAS to be the only one or prevailing one. Good luck with that, lmao.

So many college grads see measures (policies) such as these, for the pathetic-ness that they are and will say heck no I will NOT work for that company!

Many companies have reversed these types of policies because of the 'brain drain' it was causing combined with the fact that anyone worth their salt would put up with those policies to begin with.

So CNN is late, once again, to the table....no surprise there.

Even fresh graduates are smart enough to see these 'anti-life' (as in live and let live kind of life) policies for what they are and go to work somewhere else.

Thus their company suffers....

... the market eventually does decide.

Just one more reason to turn CNN off and another news channel ON, how about Fox!

How can you believe anything CNN would say, if they try to CENSOR others!

Sheriff Bart said...

"*The one and only Star Wars reference I'll ever make on this site."

Lies

Anonymous said...

So what happens when a CNN employee is recorded discussing personal opinions amongst friends and that recording is then posted on YouTube? We've seen that happen often enough to the candidates this year...

whatiskleinon? said...

Because what really drives the news market is having teleprompter readers be bland and without energy or opinions. No wonder I've been turning to Fox.

Anonymous said...

You know what's wierd Chez?

Anderson posts on the blog like this:

"anderson cooper August 4th, 2008 10:33 pm ET Good evening…im having computer problems too.. but glad to be here… glad to be anywhere after diving with sharks."

But those emails go out looking like this:

"From:"Cooper, Anderson"
To: "Missy Hill" paragon1920@yahoo.com

I don’t know who you are, nor do I care. Apparently you think I have a shred of interest in any thought you may have. I do not. Your emails will now be automatically blocked. Feel free to change the channel.

From: Missy Schultz [1]
Sent: Tuesday, March 11, 2008 11:30 PM
To: Cooper, Anderson
Subject: Lisa Bloom and Eliot Spitzer

I found it it ironic that you took issue with Lisa Bloom's comment about Spitzer's wife standing beside her cheating husband while your own mother has had numerous affairs with married men, some while she was married herself, a trait that she has most likely passed on to you. You are not one to judge."

The Anderson parts are written so differently, who really is sending out those emails? Cause generally you have ONE style of writing and everything you write is similar but these are so different. People just don't write one way and so completely different in email and another on a blog. Any idea what's going on?

Anonymous said...

Blog or no Blog CNN is unfair PERIOD… unfair to employees, workers on disabilities in the company, unfair to hispanic journalists and more. They abuse whoever they want to, CNN is violating human rights.

See the following about CNN:
CNN: MISTREATMENT AND DEATH OF EMPLOYEES

Salvadoran journalist Mario Vela passes away 12 days after being dismissed by CNN. The organization AGACAMT denounces the hostile attitude of CNN towards ill employees. Jose Ramon Cotti, Puerto Rican journalist dismissed by CNN, remains in a hospital after months of pain.

Atlanta (23 March 2009). – Salvadoran journalist Mario Vela passed away 12 days after CNN dismissed him. The company fired this worker despite the knowledge of the seriousness of his illness. Mr. Vela had been several months agonizing in Washington after his doctors declared there was no hope to save his life.

Mario Vela and his family underwent the pressure imposed by CNN in his last days when receiving a document in which their rights of denunciation were questioned and conditioned to the signing of a humiliating severance package.

CNN served notice to Mr. Vela via mail explaining that he no longer was to have his disability benefits and the medical insurance from the company.

Eva Ventín, president of AGACAMT, the Galician Association Against Moral Harassment at the Workplace, denounces the hypocritical attitude of CNN, that, after putting Mr. Vela in the street, sent the Vice-president of CNN Spanish, Cristopher Crommett, to this employee’s funeral to sing a song and to deliver a pitiful donation.

Relatives and friends of Mario Vela were themselves forced to organize a fundraising concert to collect money to pay for his medical treatment.

It is difficult to think that a powerful and multi-millionaire company like CNN, that in spite of the world’s economy crisis have announced economic gains, gets to mistreat its professionals and families”.

Mario Vela who passed away at age 34, was named by the mayor of Washington DC “the journalist of the year of 2007” recognition who was emphasized by his support to the Hispanic community and towards the under-privileged.

With more than 10 years of experience Mario Vela was news director of Mega Communications and Radio Capital 730 in DC. Vela worked for Channel 30 of Univisión and Radio World in Maryland.

AGACAMT wants to bring to the world’s attention other serious cases of labor harassment at CNN as in 2003 the local press of Atlanta related this network with the depression of a journalist who committed suicide. (see original editorial of the Mundo Hispanico about former news director Abel Dimant).

The complaints of labor abuses and irregularities had been communicated to Mr. Jim Walton, the President of CNN, but there are no answers neither solutions that protect the victims.

AGACAMT denounces that “this it is not the unique case of a journalist dismissed by CNN in a serious condition”. News anchor Jose Ramon Cotti remains in a hospital in Georgia after several months of pain.

The Puerto Rican journalist also was dismissed by CNN while on disability awaiting a delicate heart operation.

CNN brought Mr. Cotti and his wife to Atlanta from New York 9 years ago and the company has now totally forgotten this family, not even making a phone call to inquire about its employee’s condition after double bypass surgery and leg amputation and also after Mrs. Cotti’s hospitalization with health problems including stress related condition.

We communicated Mr. Walton of the above again with no responses.
This prestigious New York radio journalist, recipient of Several prizes including two awards from ACE. (Award of creative excellence) is just another one of the numerous victims of the dramatic crisis that shakes CNN.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CV_ngsdcwFo

omid said...

thanks for your useful post but where can i find the latest version of social media policy of cnn?