The Blog as Public Record

Back when I had a corporate job, we used to tell employees, Don’t put anything in an e-mail that you wouldn’t want forwarded to another person. The blog has streamlined that principle: no one has to forward your blog posts, because they’re already there, naked,  for anyone and everyone to see (and possibly take offense to). David Churbuck reminds us of this in a post about his interactions with a journalist; even though he did a phone interview with the reporter, the scribe found a juicier quote from is blog and chose to use that in the upcoming article. David’s conclusion:

Hence, if I continue to blog in the same voice and tone, I can expect to get quoted saying that things bluntly suck or rock, or that  the best use of Second Life is trying to get virtually “laid”, or that X is a moron, Y a frigtard, and Z a knuckle-dragging mouth breather. This gives me pause, particularly since I tend to put a different filter on my spoken utterances in the presence of a reporting reporter. 

The concept of blog as public record also should give pause to nitwits like this guy, who was blogging anonymously (or so he thought) while he was a defendant in a medical malpractice suit. Apparently he was providing a running commentary of the trial:

In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff’s case and the plaintiff’s lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing.

Nice strategy. After admitting under questioning that he was the blogger named Flea, the defendant settled the case the next morning – for what the Boston Globe reported to be a “substantial” fee.

We’re just beginning to see the courts address the issue of libel as it relates to blogs. The Media Law Resource Center is keeping a tally.

Libel, slander, disclosure of trade secrets – those are the things that corporate marketers and lawyers freak out about when deciding whether their executives or other employees should launch a blog. Traditionalists will no doubt use any news of blogger lawsuits as proof points against unfettered corporate blogging.

That’s an overreaction. The spontaneity of blogs provides a refreshing departure from heavy-handed oversight from marketers who expect everyone to stay “on message” and from corporate lawyers who see potential lawsuits around every corner. But bloggers – regardless of whether they’re on their own or representing their company’s brand – have to be smart about what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. In other words, don’t expect that no one will notice or care about what your write because it’s “just a blog.” 


6 thoughts on “The Blog as Public Record”

  1. It’s going to become very interesting when some of the flamers get hauled into court, Rob.

    Excellent post and ponter to Dave’s blog of last week

    jim forbes

  2. We’re gonna re-learn journalistic ethics the hard way, in court.

    This is the thing we forget in blogging – we don’t have that old codger copy editor double checking our stuff. It crosses the mind, hits the keyboard and from there, who knows…

  3. maybe that’s what we need – the Web 2.0 version of a copy editor where a msg pops up on your screen before you publish asking, do you really want to call that guy a flaming a-hole?

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