We’ve all been there, sometimes it’s late at night, sometimes our judgment is clouded by anger or alcohol, or sometimes we are just really passionate about the subject. We bang out a response and hit send before we have a chance to breathe. There’s none among us who can say they have never sent a text or an email they regretted, or posted a message they wished they hadn’t, but today I’ve been thinking about the effects that can have on your career.
This week the local news was filled with stories about a 19 year old newspaper photographer named Susanne Morrison. By yesterday the story had also been on the front page of most of the national papers, accompanied by a massive photo of Morrison. Needless to say the articles did not paint her in a flattering way. The newspaper where she worked has since sacked her and the police are investigating the whole incident. So, what did she do?
Well, she wrote some messages on her Facebook page, which she may or may not have thought funny at the time, but now I’m sure she regrets. The messages in question were tasteless comments about the murder of Michaela McAreavey, and in a string of messages and replies, Morrison basically shot her career to hell.
The interesting twist came when the Belfast Telegraph reported (http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/harte-tragedy-newspaper-photographers-sick-facebook-messages-about-michaela-15062387.html) that it had been contacted by Morrison’s solicitors over the matter and, according to the report in the telegraph they were told by the solicitors that if they ‘published information “in respect of which our client had a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’,” then their client would be entitled to bring an action for misuse of “private information”.’
But, the comments themselves aside, is it really private information if you put it out there yourself, knowing that you are placing it on a very public forum and, in essence, making it available for the whole world to see and comment upon? If you can’t say anything nice….
All the offensive material concerning Michaela’s murder was later removed, but by that stage the damage had most definitely been done.
Now, this post isn’t about the right to free speech, or political opinions or whether public boards and forums should be moderated. No, this post is about whether we SHOULD post certain things for the whole world to see.
Bear in mind the technical age we live in, it’s common practice to Google someone before a job interview, or to check out their Facebook page before a date. We, as a nation, follow celebrities with a scary obsession, and yet people are still surprised when things they say come back and bite them in the ass.
This week Sky Sports presenter Andy Gray lost out on a £1.5m a year salary when he was sacked after being caught on microphone making remarks about female assistant referee Sian Massey. To his credit he, and co presenter Richard Keys, formally apologized, but it was too late to save his job, or his credibility.
Bottom of Form
We constantly hear stories about people being fired for bitching about their boss on Facebook, or pupils being expelled for bullying on Bebo. Twitter wars have become the latest way for celebrities to fight. But is it professional?
In any profession you want to be taken seriously. As a writer you spend years working on your book, you build up a fanbase and people spend time and money on you, and they invest their emotions in you. So why then would anyone consider it appropriate to post a rant on a public message board denouncing their “sheer outrageous stupidity” like Anne Rice did when reviews for Blood Canticle turned out to be less than glowing (for good reason too, but apparently that’s not the point because Rice doesn’t think she needs editors, but that’s a post for another day).
Anne Rice’s rant, published on Amazon back in September 2004 is a prime example of why sometimes it’s better to keep quiet. Fuelled by the negaitve reviews for her latest novel, Blood Canticle, Rice took to Amazon.com to voice her displeasure. The post has since been removed from Amazon, but you can read a transcript herehttp://emmastory.typepad.com/weblog/2004/09/from_the_author.html . The main point seems to be that the reader is ‘reading it wrong’ which surely is one of the most stupid things to say to a fan, but no, Rice goes on, for a whopping 1200 words about how stupid her readers are because they ‘don’t understand’ her book. Hmmm.
In case you are interested you can read Rice’s response here http://www.annerice.com/msg092604a.htm
Rice is by no means alone in her rant at her fans. IN 2005 Laurell K. Hamilton(and her husband) somewhat lost the plot, so to speak.
When people left negative reviews of her latest Anita Blake offering, ‘Incubus Dreams’ on her websites guestbook, Hamilton’s husband took to the internet to voice his opinions on it all. It wasn’t long before Hamilton herself chimed in with a post that started with a sympthy grab because her grandmother way dying, therefore everyone should be nice to her and owe her an apology. (No, seriously) The post went on in this way for a page before she started to attack her fans for not likeing what she wrote.
It got better, she then went on to tell her fans, and readers in general, not to bother buying her books if they weren’t happy. I ‘m sure her publisher loved that particular marketing tool.
The reason I bring these two cases up are because they generated alot of interest, and, if truth be told, they lost both writers alot of fans. When you treat people like that then how can you expect them to continue to treat you well?
They are high profile cases, but one of the most intersting I have witnessed has been a wanna-be writer who’s blog, ‘Tales of a Rejection Queen’ (which has since been deleted) chronicled her attempts to get published. Fair enough. But what she was doing was publishing the actual rejection letters she recieved, along with a snarky commentary on them. The proverbial hit the fan when she posted a rant about agents, naming them and cursing them to high heaven. Needless to say, it earned it’s fair share of ridicule and interest from the writing community in general.Several agents she had named actually wrote about it in their own blogs. Not exactly the sort of publicity you want.
Needless to say, no matter how good her book was, she evectivly ended her writing career there and then. She since announced that she was quitting writing, removed herself form public life and disapeared.
So, I guessthe moral of this story is this – Don’t say anything in public that you don’t want others to hear.
Social networking platforms are a great tool for publicity and connecting with your readers, and other writers, but they are no the place for the professional to vent their anger or frustrations.