Congratulations, Jeremy. Now Stop Worrying.
The ever-more-famous blawger Jeremy Blachman (of Anonymous Lawyer fame) today has an op-ed in the New York Times. It's certainly cool that he's managed it, but like many NYT op-eds, I think he's getting worried over nothing much.
Will Baude has already explained why adopting Jeremy's position (a law protecting bloggers) is unlikely to be good for them in the first place. But in any event, my experience suggests that the risks worrying Jeremy are overstated.
His op-ed focuses on the case of Nadine Haobsh, who has been fired from two magazine for keeping a blog. (Ladies Home Journal and Seventeen, for those wanting to boycott, write angry letters, etc. I'm half-tempted: I mean, I don't feel that strongly, but who ever thought I'd get to boycott Seventeen? ) It seems that Ms. Haobsh wasn't perhaps the most discreet person in the world to be blogging. An example of her work:
My boss (and sometimes even I, only a mid-level editor) regularly gets Marc Jacobs wallets and coats, plane ticket vouchers, iPods, overnight stays at the Mandarin Oriental, year-long gym memberships, and—of course—all the free highlights and haircuts your poor dyed, straightened and styled hair can stand. It's almost embarassing.
Of course, the entry pay is crap. When my parents found out how much I made at my first job (good ol' Condé Nast!), they questioned the legality of paying somebody that little. (Nope, not slave labor, just your standard editorial assistant position.)
Ms. Haobsh would have been well-served by my rule of not mentioning a non-blogger (like your boss) online without asking them first. Not exactly the expectations that an HR manager in any beauty department wants to set.
Then again, it's all fairly harmless. Having read the whole four months of her blog, I can say that there's nothing in there as damaging to any organization as an NYT editorial castigating the firing. Further, that single editorial probably drove the young lady's hit count through the roof. (At least, it would have if the NYT had included a link in the text...) She wasn't talking about the sex lives of her bosses/clients. In the end, this may end up a Seventeen own-goal.
My guess is that over time, a kind of market truce is going to emerge. Responsible bloggers will worry--as Heidi Bond has done recently--about what others (including, presumably, their employers) will think of their writing. They will be reasonable about what they write.  Good employers, in the meantime, will realize the positive power of having a blogging employee.
Here I like to think I was ahead of the curve. Back before I entered law school, I was introduced to blogs by a friend and colleague who was a bit of an evangelist. (Actually, he was good friends with another blogging evangelist who showed me a great deal about the form, and can tell you concisely why politicians need weblogs.) Both of them had some great ideas about how a blog could help a firm.
Marketing departments, for instance, can get a heck of a lot of bang for the buck by sending a product sample to someone like Engadget--assuming it's a good product. Gradually, the marketing departments have come around. It's a matter of getting comfortable with openness and trusting your customers: putting your marketing in the hands of an independent blogger can seem scary to someone used to dictating advertising schedules (or being friendly to "professional" reviewers at established magazines). Similarly, a PR or HR department has a lot to gain from a blogger giving a realistic and credible view of what it's like to work at a company. (Read Ms. Haobsh, for instance, and you're likely to come up with a favorable view of her job.)
The risks are there for both sides: the blogger can say something unkind about your company an in uncensored forum, and that's likely to hurt. Of course, it's likely to hurt a lot more if what the blogger said is true, and hurt a lot less if other employees are in the blogosphere to contradict the first one. On the other hand, the blogger takes the risk of blogging too far and convincing the company to make him or her redundant. Yet once the dust settles, I'm convinced many companies will be making the realistic assessment: how much will they lose from firing a blogger who didn't make them look bad in the first place?
Of course, I'm not sure I'd put my money where my mouth is on that one, which is why this blog will cease upon my graduation...
: Looking at the advertisers on Seventeen, I seem to be managing my boycott pre-emptively....
: Actually, the worry about my readers is one reason I've not blogged much recently. First of all, I know that I get a number of hits from various courts, and I'm applying for clerkships right now. I have about half a dozen draft articles on MT that have been "put in holding" so that I can make sure they don't say anything about me that might worry a judge I for whom I might want to work. And for any clerk who looks at this: yes, it's error-prone, but this is what I write for fun. Part of that is putting my normal proofreading aside.
The other reason for my silence on many matters is Model Rule 1.6, which I probably interpret more expansively than necessary. I learned a lot of things this summer that fascinated me, especially with regards to the state of the law. However, even though I wouldn't name my firm, I know some associates there read what I write, and for all I know, some of their clients do. Therefore I've not said anything even tangentially related to a case, even if I might have mentioned it anyway, especially not something that might relate to a client. Sadly, given the amount of my summer that was spent working, this rendered a lot of interesting stories unbloggable.