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Employers embarrassed by blogs

18 April 2005

The story of Joe Gordon, fired by Waterstone’s in Edinburgh in January for writing about them in his blog the Woolamaloo Gazette, has had a happy ending. In it he referred to them as ‘Bastardstone’s’ and his superior as the ‘Evil Boss’. After an internal investigation, Waterstone’s have offered him his job back.

Gordon decided he preferred to stay at SF and Fantasy specialists Forbidden Planet, where he is now happily running the their blog.

Other blogging employees have been less fortunate. Ellen Simonetti, a Delta Airlines flight attendant, lost her job after including photos of herself in her uniform in her blog. Google employee Mark Jen, in a mysterious case headlined ‘Curse of the Blog’ left Google afer a month because of his innocuous blog. This must have been a bit embarrassing for Google, with its company stance as crusader for the freedom of the web.

The problem of employers firing their staff for blogging is now becoming so serious that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has produced a guide to blogging in the workplace. It says:

‘Anyone can eventually find your blog if your real identity is tied to it in some way. And there may be consequences. Family members may be shocked or upset when they read your uncensored thoughts. A potential boss may think twice about hiring you. But these concerns shouldn't stop you from writing. Instead, they should inspire you to keep your blog private, or accessible only to certain trusted people.’

The readership of blogs in the States increased by 58% last year and 7% of American adults now have their own blog, so it looks like blogs are here to stay.

Back in the world of regular old books, people are also getting fired for what they have written – or plan to write. Jeramy Fine was an American employee of Guinness World Records in London, owned by Hit, which employs 400 people worldwide. Having decided to fictionalise her life in a novel, Fine was suspended after doing a deal with HarperCollins in London, even though she had received clearance for outside writing projects from the legal department.

HarperCollins has backed off and Fine’s New York agent, Ted Gideonse, said that his company had also been threatened with legal action. It’s probably been magic for her career though. Gideonse said: ‘They don’t own her life or her memories. They’ve made the book much more valuable.’