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?