Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

First Fired for Blogging, Now Not Hired for Blogging

In Blogfired on December 22, 2004 at 7:09 pm

I just got a call from Michael Skoler, the news director at Minnesota Public Radio. I was the lead candidate for a job as an analyst at MPR’s Public Insight Journalism inititative, a program that uses a database to gauge public opinion and mine sources for public radio stories and series. I had interviewed several times, had all the experience and all the skills they were looking for. The next step was to fly out and speak with Michael and the team in person.

In an earlier conversation, Michael had mentioned my blog entry on the San Francisco Catholic Church’s behavior in likening themselves to Jewish victims of the Holocaust when some drag queens elected to parade on Easter. But I didn’t think much of it. After all MPR is a proponent and defender of the First Amendment, no? Uh, no.

When Michael called this morning he said the reason I was not going to be hired was specifically because of this blog, Morpheme Tales. What would the neighbors think?

I am a little ashamed of myself for being surprised. After all, during my tenure at KLCC, the NPR affiliate in Eugene, Oregon, the dominant note was one of orthodoxy. One must be of clean mind and clean political and social belief. To say “poopie” or imagine that although all war is evil, not all war is avoidable, is to “deny the essential personhood” of some fucking shit or other.

I’ve said it before and I’l say it again: JOURNALISM DOESN’T WORK!

Friendster, Microsoft, Delta Airlines and now Minnesota Public Radio. Well, I’m hardly “fired” but for a hurting unit in the great unemployed state of Oregon, it hardly feels like less of a fuck-all.

***

In the three weeks since I first posted this I have researched blog-related firings for an article I’m writing. I’ve also had some time to reflect, as well as to read comments that have come in. Some people seem upset that I got upset. But they seem to be misunderstanding a little what I was upset about. Having worked in a public radio station for six months, I was painfully aware of how completely biased — and how openly biased — the people at the station were. One reporter during a staff meeting said to general nods all around, “Of course, none of us can be impartial.” I was frequently shown examples of the idiocy of Republican politicians and expected to decry it or laugh along with it. (It just so happens I am probably what would be consider by many to be “liberal,” but I believe in equal opportunity lambasting and in that I was alone — to skewer the “progressive” sacred cows was a crime worse than genocide.) So to be discounted from a position because someone might read my blog and believe me to be biased seemed a bit on the hypocritical side.

My research has led me to a more nuanced appraisal of blog-related firings in general. I am going to reserve most of this for my article and will publish a link to it when it comes out. But one thing I can say is that there are many different types of blogs with radically different tones. People have been fired for saying loathsome things, loathsome things about co-workers and bosses, for saying anything at all, for merely having a blog and so on. It is definitely not one-size-fits-all. I think there is a tendency toward collar-tearing in the blog community that overstates the importance of this and I think there is an ignorance on the part of many employers and, in some cases — specifically media and software companies — a tendency to dismiss it as beneath consideration. Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that neither is completely on target?

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  1. Dear Mr. Hopkins
    Looks like I’m the only one taking the time to post a comment on your latest entry. Maybe because people were too busy with holiday preparations etc.
    Anyway, despite your past dissapointments I hope you don’t give up too soon and refuse to bend a little so you can be employable. Just found your Morphene Tales through a Baltic blog web site, therefore, I’m not ready to voice my opinion in general only on your Dec 22 2004 entry, First fired etc.

    I find your behaviour extremely juvenile something I might have seen on a playground between todlers who are totally clueless of why they can’t get their way.
    Don’t blame Public Radio. If you really think they are
    infringing upon your freedom of speach you are more clueless than I thought.
    I enjoy reading bloggers more than so called journalists. Journalist now are more driven to please their publishers point of view.
    But, at the same time bloggers have a tendency to write more for themselves then report actual facts.
    So, I read both with a questioning mind.
    Curt, you sound like someone who thinks the world isn’t fair when it doens’t bow down to you.
    The day that you aceept the fact that ain’t gonna happen good things will come your way.
    Using four letter words seems the norm for some but
    unfortunately like everything that is overused loses its schock value, all it does is demean the writer.
    I don’t have much chance to spend time on the internet
    therefore instead of reading useless and repetetive news reports while I was recuperating from a bad cold like flu I rather spend time reading material written by young upstarts like you who probably and eventually inherit this crazy world of ours.
    Happy New Year
    Zigrida Dzenis

    P.S. Even though I chose not to register at this time.
    Here is my e-ad zdzenis@earthlink.net in case you would like to blog me out of the water.

  2. i found the preceding comment odd. i didn’t quite catch Curt expecting the world to bow down to him; he sounded annoyed and disappointed that his off-duty First Amendment activities as a writer and blogger would keep him from being hired by a certain employer. the uber-fun, ironic part is that said employer is an NPR affiliate, and wouldn’t all us nice, liberal NPR supporters like to think that public radio stations are in favour of free speech? sure we would. and we’d be wrong.

    to reiterate: blogging good. Minnesota Public Radio bad. and Fuck Censorship in all its myriad forms, literal and otherwise.

    have a happy new year…

  3. I found this page through a circuitous route starting with a marketing news site I occasionally read. I don’t understand the author’s post, however. It appears that he wants to be able to post whatever he likes on his blog and then have prospective employers pretend it doesn’t exist. (Disclosure: I haven’t read the whole blog yet. I just may spend some more time here.)

    This seems analogous to someone coming into a professional interview, dropping the F-bomb here and there, saying they don’t think the Pope’s Catholic, or that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and then being surprised they don’t the job. What am I missing?

    There is a real story here, though, and it’s not that blogger’s rights are being trampled. It’s not that free speech is being trounced, or even that blogger’s should be able to write whatever they want and not have it affect their prospective employment. The real story is that a new medium exists – blogging – wherein people feel completely free to unload whatever springs to mind (something that wouldn’t be done “in person”) but then get miffed that the world actually reacts to it. Freedom of expression is one thing, but freedom from reaction? I’m not sure we’re there yet, or even should be.

    Rock on,
    Carl

  4. I agree with the blog owner about the inconsistency (if not hypocrisy) shown by MPR in not hiring him because of his blogging. I also found the comment below to be very interesting:

    “Having worked in a public radio station for six months, I was painfully aware of how completely biased — and how openly biased — the people at the station were…I was frequently shown examples of the idiocy of Republican politicians and expected to decry it or laugh along with it. (It just so happens I am probably what would be consider by many to be ‘liberal,’ but I believe in equal opportunity lambasting and in that I was alone — to skewer the ‘progressive’ sacred cows was a crime worse than genocide.)”

    This sounds a lot like what another “equal-opportunity” liberal espoused a few years ago. The book is “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News,” and the author is Bernard Goldberg, a CBS veteran of many years who got the boot for not toeing the political line that does not exist in journalism.

    — Anonymous Coward

  5. ‘he sounded annoyed and disappointed that his off-duty First Amendment activities as a writer and blogger would keep him from being hired by a certain employer’

    The First Amendment prevents the government from legislating to restrict freedom of speech. It does NOT prevent an employer from making decisions with who they want to pay their own money to with relation to that speech.

  6. Public radio is, in many cases, publically funded (at least in part.)

    So it is a form of government censorship.

  7. A good article and some very intelligent comments, but I think a most important point was missed. Mr Hopkins is clearly one of those intelligent, questioning, creative, risk taking individuals that could make this country great. He was not denied the job because of this blog. He could take the blog down. Many, many solutions are possible if that was the real issue. The real issue is that the blog and what it contains speaks directly to Mr Hopkins character- and that, not the blog, is what was so threatening to NPR. If you were a mediocre, 9-5er would you hire someone with spunk? Is NPR’s real mission to change the world or the preserve it?

    The detractors say “why should Curt. Hopkins be allowed to think and speak intelligently (and with some emphasis)” when the rest of us have to be tame by active restraint or lack of ability to be otherwise. This is the “I caved so you should have to” mentality. Don’t listen to them.

  8. In the light of the present day liberalism on the right of the individual to freedom of speech, does this right not apply to everyone, or just to the opinionated who shout the loudest.

    Does the prospective employer, as an individual, not have the right in his own capacity, to select employees, who after all, in his absence, represent him to the world.

    If there is obvious conflict of opinions, whether revealed in an interview, subsequently throught employment, or innermost thoughts revealed in a blogg, do they not have the right to distance themselves from that person?

    Would any sane employer, actually employ someone that they find irritating beyond the pale, which would obviously lead to intolerable stress in the workplace, or does he have no rights?

    Just stop whingeing, you would’nt be happy there anyway, unless, of course, as I suspect you harvest benefit from spreading unhapiness, but I’m forgetting, your a journalist, paid to seek out, and exploit human disaster for monetry gain, and possibly personal satisfaction.

    The last question is, do I have the right to hold these beliefs?

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