Another Facebook-Related Fall

Anyone, she wrote, “has the right to free speech. No one has the right to be employed at a newspaper. That is a privilege.” She continued: “At the Collegian, we hold our staff members to high standards and require them to act professionally on and off the job, particularly when they are representing the Collegian and responding to criticism.” —Another Facebook-Related Fall (Inside Higher Ed)

The quote is from a student editor who fired a columnist due, in part, to his membership in a Facebook group.

Thanks for the link, Karissa.

6 thoughts on “Another Facebook-Related Fall

  1. Like I said, a newspaper punishing one of it’s employees for expressing an unharmful but unpopular opinion is kind of like a veterinarian being fired for owning pets.

  2. Reporters can have opinions. They can vote. A famous editor is often quoted as saying to his reporters something like “I don’t care if you’re [bleeping] elephants, but if you do, you’re not covering the circus.”

    Thus, in your example, it’s not so much the ownership of animals that would be the problem. If a veterinarian used the reputation he/she had gained working at the local vet office to perform operations as a freelancer, especially if those operations were ones he/she was told not to do in the office, that would fit the example more fully.

  3. But this student didn’t express those views in the pages of the paper, where the editors would have a chance to check the writing for accuracy, fairness, lack of libel, etc. Again, this is about activism that is happening outside the scope of the paper, not about what the author is publishing in the paper.

  4. It just seems to me that a newspaper that fires an employee for expressing unpopular views is being rather hypocritical. Expressing opinions is what a newspaper does. It’s like a veterinarian being fired because they have pets, or an english professor getting fired for having to much reading and not enough video watching in his English Lit class.

    I suppose perhaps this particular paper isn’t necessarily claiming any great integrity, but newspapers are supposed to be bastions of fair and balanced news, combined with free thought in opinion pieces. Saying the newspaper can publish what it wants, but the people who work for it can’t is just plain weird. What’s next – editor gets fired for volunteering free time to judge a spelling bee? ;-)

  5. If I were an editor, and felt that a particular reporter’s activism was affecting the credibility of the paper, it would be my obligation to do something about it. If the student in question had simply put his opinions into his regular column, and was let go because the column caused a group to get upset, that would look like the paper was caving in.

    But you are right to point out that on some campuses, the student paper is under a lot of pressure. (Our paper has received some flak for publishing stories that certain groups would not like us to cover, but those complaints come from within individual units on campus who are unhappy about the bad news being published. The president and the academic dean have been completely supportive. I realize student authors don’t always have the luxury of working in a place where they are expected to do journalism rather than PR.

  6. Technically, your employer can fire you for anything whatsoever that isn’t specifically prohibited by law. For example, my employer could fire me because I bought a blue car and he/she doesn’t like the color blue. The legal reason employers try to find a specific violation is only because they’re afraid you might come back and claim to a jury that it was actually because you wouldn’t sleep with your boss or something that’s illegal – it’s not because they actually are required to have a reason by law. At least that’s my understanding of it.

    But arguing that point, which is what the boss in the story deliberately attempts to do, misses the issue. The person in this article was pretty obviously fired because they offended the wrong group on campus which had political power. The fact that they were fired from a NEWSPAPER only highlights the fact that the newspaper is under the thumb of any campus group which has any political power. The question is whether it’s ethical or not. It hardly seems ethical to fire someone from a NEWSPAPER for disagreeing with a group that has political power.

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