Let’s Be Professional

I saw this controversy reported on Gawker on Monday.  I know I’m a few days behind on weighing in, but as someone who wishes they were a journalist and someone who considers themselves a blogger, I really wanted to bring it up for discussion.  As the story goes, a female investigative reporter named Shea Allen wrote a personal blog post sharing some of her behind-the-scenes secrets.  The post, titled “Confessions of a Red Headed Reporter,” listed ten revelations about her time as a reporter for ABC affiliate WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama.

If you want to read Shea Allen’s controversial list, you can do so after the jump, but they range from harmless and silly (“I hate the right side of my face”) to distasteful (“I’m frightened of old people and I refuse to do stories involving them or the places they reside”).  Allen removed the post quickly after publishing it, under pressure from her employer to do so.  Hours later, however, she republished it with a disclaimer saying she would not apologize for her “slightly twisted psyche” and prided herself in fighting for the right of free expression, declaring,  “This post was taken down because I was momentarily misguided about who I am and what I stand for …  I won’t ever bend just because its [sic] popular to do so and I’m not bending now.”

Allen was subsequently terminated without cause.  I was following this a little bit while we were in the car on the way back from the beach, so I missed the initial outrage, but I saw Tweets and comments both supporting and criticizing Allen.  Here’s where I stand.  While I completely stand behind Allen’s – and everyone’s – right of free expression, I also support her termination.  She had every right to make and keep the blog post up and WAAY-TV had every right to fire her for not only reposting it, but making a big deal out of it.  Just because you have the right to say whatever you want on your personal blog, it doesn’t mean that you should.

I think for my generation, the hardest adjustment that we have had while transitioning into the “real world” has been learning to walk that fine line between the world of sharing everything via status updates and the professional world where no one cares if you’re “feeling _____”.  The instant gratification and anonymity of the Internet has made us freer with our thoughts, quicker with our opinions, and bigger with our reactions.

It has also, apparently, skewed our abilities to understand real life consequences resulting from our online interactions.  Whether we’re leaving a comment on a message board or saying something on a podcast or sending out a Tweet, someone’s always listening.  Freedom of speech or not, everything you put out there in public counts towards your reputation and can be used against you in the court of public opinion.  I know that we, the generation who learned how to communicate our feelings via song lyrics left on AIM Away Messages, are used to just being able to block someone who we don’t want seeing our feeds, but it doesn’t work that way in the real world.  You cannot make a very public commentary from behind your keyboard about subjects – however true – that shouldn’t be discussed, particularly when you are in a professional field that a hundred thousand other people are dying to get into.  You are always replaceable if someone doesn’t like you and there will always be someone else willing to take your spot.  Don’t go on record with something unprofessional unless you can accept the consequences that may follow.

List after the jump.  Feel free to leave your comments below.

Here’s the list from Shea Allen’s “Confessions of a Red Headed Reporter”:

1. I’ve gone bra-less during a live broadcast and no one was the wiser.

2. My best sources are the ones who secretly have a crush on me.

3. I am better live when I have no script and no idea what I’m talking about.

4. I’ve mastered the ability to contort my body into a position that makes me appear much skinner in front of the camera than I actually am.

5. I hate the right side of my face.

6. I’m frightened of old people and I refuse to do stories involving them or the places they reside.

7. Happy, fluffy, rainbow stories about good things make me depressed.

8. I’ve taken naps in the news car.

9. If you ramble and I deem you unnecessary for my story, I’ll stop recording but let you think otherwise.

10. I’ve stolen mail and then put it back. (maybe)

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