Freelance journalist Nick Clayton got the boot last week for blogging. His firing has attracted a lot of media attention and he’s written up his experience on his own blog. Read and learn what a storm in a teacup it is – not for him but for The Scotsman.
No doubt Nick will be keeping the world posted as to what happens next, now that he’s consulting the NUJ. His sacking raises many questions about the freedom of journalists to write where, how, as and when they choose. Within the blogosphere, several high profile bloggers have lost their jobs, Petite Anglaise being one famous example. But these are people who were staffers blogging about their jobs anonymously. And who unwittingly transgressed unwritten company codes about the boundaries between work and private life.
Nick is a freelance journalist – self-employment should mean it’s entirely up to him to blog about what he likes, when he likes. Newspapers have embraced blogging, some more than others, but pretty much all of them recognise the important medium it has become. Most papers have blogs written by their staff. Very few seem to have any kind of policy on what their staff may blog about (judging purely on all the chatter doing the rounds on the net in the past few days), or even whether such policies apply to freelances under contract.
What’s puzzling in Nick’s case is why he was fired. He didn’t attack The Scotsman. He was only commenting on something the paper had already reported. The Scotsman is not doing itself any favours right now. It’s not taking calls about Nick’s firing from the NUJ or the media who want to hear the paper’s side of the story. And it’s made itself look rather petty. Which it has been.
What happens to Nick next may well determine how the landscape lies for other freelance journalists who blog, even those of us living from pitch to pitch rather than on a contract or two. It would be awful to think that a freelance fashion writer, say, was refused further commissions for blogging that a company’s latest range was poor, because the mag she writes for takes advertising from that company. Where does it end? Will it mean all freelances will have to sign some kind of disclaimer determining what they may blog about?
I suspect very many of us will be watching developments very closely.
I hope Nick is reinstated. And I hope we will all continue to enjoy the freedom to blog as we choose without fear of losing work as a result.