[Update: I was able to find a link someone posted to the Google Cache of the original blog: http://tinyurl.com/4tubjsv]
As part of a webinar I’m presenting this week on Social Media Policy (“Social Media – Campus Policies & Protocol” – February 17, 2011 from 2-3:30 p.m. EST), I’ve been tracking some very recent case studies to discuss with the audience.
One of them was the story of Natalie Munroe, a High School English Teacher who was just suspended from Central Bucks East High School last week Wednesday after a current student happened across her blog (http://natalieshandbasket.blogspot.com/) which contained disparaging comments (including calling one student a “rude, beligerent [sic], argumentative f*ck”) about students, parents and co-workers. The student forwarded the link to past students of Munroe’s. Eventually some parents found out about it and notified school officials.
What’s become particularly fascinating about the case is that yesterday, Munroe used her blog to respond with her side of the story (as I write this, the local news media in Bucks County appears not to have picked this up yet).
For what it’s worth – responding via one’s blog is a rather bold and inspired strategy. In the research I’ve done on cases like these (and in crisis public relations situations generally) people typically regret remaining silent at the advice of counsel and wish they would have weighed in to help influence public opinion on their own behalf.
From a PR perspective, I might suggest to Natalie that she undelete/republish all of the content from her blog. Here’s why:
- hiding it tends to imply that one is admitting that the content is shameful (whereas being transparent tends to be a quality that inspires respect/deference)
- it removes the context that the benign portions of the blog provide and allows people to focus on the sensational excerpts posted in the news
- as Natalie herself noted, there are already cached copies in circulation anyway
Our society is going to be engaged in a difficult debate about the limits of free speech for the next few years as more people begin to publish information about themselves via social media.
Until we’ve crystallized opinion and established a legal/societal framework around how open we allow people to be depending on their role – it’s best to avoid becoming a case study at all costs. The nascent legal framework in place and the fact that many judges/prosecutors/jurors/board members are largely ignorant of the intricacies of social media means you can’t be guaranteed a fair trial.