To put my comments in context, you should know I’ve been a reporter, editor, publisher and currently work as an online coordinator for a newspaper. I’ve spent most of the 20 years of my adult life in or around newspapers. I’ve been president of an SPJ chapter and served that chapter for nearly 10 years.
In other words, I’m not just some blowhard out to defend bloggers.
Brian Toolan made a serious ethical blunder when he forced Denis Horgan to stop blogging.
The First Amendment is more than just a law, it is a principle. While Toolan may have had the legal right to shut down this site, he didn’t have the ethical right to do it. What an employee does on his own time, with his own resources, is his own business. If that hobby happens to include expressing one’s own opinion, that activity should be especially protected, especially by someone who calls himself a journalist.
Furhtermore, Toolan’s reasoning doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. If it be true, than Dave Barry shouldn’t write books or publish a blog (which he does); furthermore, if a columnist’s reputation rest entirely on the masthead of the newspaper that originally published him, then no columnist could ever ethically change papers, publish books, give speeches for fees, create blogs, participate in e-mail discussion lists, or even print personal business cards.
Denis Horgan’s reputation did not rest on the name of the Hartford Courant. It rested on the byline of Denis Horgan. The HC was merely the vehicle by which Horgan was able to make his name, but whatever audience Horgan amassed from his time as a columnist for the paper, he did through his own talent and hard work, not because of anything Toolan did, or anything the press operator did, or anything the circulation director did. It was Horgan, and he should be able to reap the benefit of that hard work as he sees fit.
Toolan’s heavy handedness is another black eye for our profession, where we say we cherish a free press, but operate quite differently.
Too bad Toolan doesn’t understand our profession or our society better.
Fortunately, I work for a media company where even bosses have blogs.