BLOGFIRED: Precursor

I received an email from Ken Hollis, who told me he had been fired from NASA for posting publicly-available materials not to a blog, but to a Usenet group.

In 1998 testimony submitted at the request of The Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics of the House Science Committee, Keith Cowing, the editor of NASA Watch, said:

When NASA contractor employees speak out, the fate is far worse. When Jim Oberg, Ken Hollis, and Tom Hancock (a.k.a. “BitFlip”) exercised their constitutional right to free speech, and discussed NASA without PAO permission, they soon found their jobs in jeopardy such that they had to leave their jobs. These individuals spoke of nothing proprietary and often spoke and wrote things that made NASA look good.

New communications technologies, it seems, always put some kinds of people on the defensive.


Today, the New York Times published a reasonably complete article on the conflict (and dialogue) between employers and bloggers. (Though it does seem eerily familiar somehow…)

The only truly goofy part of the article is the end, where the author quotes Adam Hertz, the Vice President for Engineering at Technorati.

Mr. Hertz stressed that the company had no interest in formalizing any complicated policies regarding an employee’s activities outside the office.

“I had a high school teacher,” he recalled, “who used to say ‘I have only two rules: Don’t roller-skate in the hallway and don’t be a damn fool.’ We really value a company where people can think for themselves.”

In this, Herz echoes Technorati CEO David Sifry.

Considering that the article’s peg is Technorati’s insistence that one of its employees, Niall Kennedy (read his mea culpa here), take down a graphic they objected to, this refusal to create a formal policy may be ill-advised. Not being a “damned fool” is an impossibly broad criterion for employee behavior, especially since it is rarely an aspect of corporate life that is led from above.


“You can add me to your list of bloggers whose jobs bit the dust as a result. I may, it appears, have been one of the first back in 2001.

“Up until March 2001, I was investigative reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, a Honolulu daily newspaper which was in a joint operating agreement with the larger Honolulu Advertiser, owned by Gannett.

“In September 1999, Gannet and the Star-Bulletin’s owner cut a deal to shut down the S-B and terminate the JOA, leaving Gannett’s Advertiser with a monopoly in the city which accounts for about 70 percent of the state’s population.

“Given 60 days notice prior to the closing, I started a blog to document the newspaper’s final days. One thing led to another, a lawsuit was filed, Dept of Justice Anti-Trust Division added pressure, and eventually the S-B was sold to a new owner. It took 18 months.

“Somewhere along the way, though, my blog apparently began to be perceived as a threat by the S-B’s editors, and I got the heave-ho in that mythical moment between the termination of the existing union contract under the old ownership and the new already negotiated and approved contract with the new owners.”


A disproportionate number of fired bloggers have been journalists. Why?