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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

You are OURS. We OWN you.

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: How NOT to set up a blogging policy.

It's funny that I'm about to criticise CBC for its new blogging policy “guideline document.” CBC employees have been asking for some direction about blogging for quite some time now. When none came, a few of them proposed the CBC Blogging Manifesto. They signed their names (well, except "Ouimet", who blogs under a pseudonym because as management, he'd be fired if anyone finds out who he is). I don't know everyone on the list, but I respect those I do know. I thought the manifesto was a great start, but essentially forgot about it when nothing seemed to come of it.

Well, there's a new policy “guideline document” that's been posted to the Web. My comments are in bold text.

Personal Blogging – Guidelines for CBC/Radio-Canada Employees

As the internet becomes an even more important part of people’s lives, the popularity of blogging will increase. Blogging is becoming a form of public conversation on the internet in which CBC employees may wish to take part.

True! I agree with this. That last sentence is a bit clunky -- I would have reworded it -- but I agree with the sentiment. Usually "Internet" is capitalized, but still, this isn't bad.

These guidelines apply to any personal blogging or other self-publishing such as podcasting by CBC/Radio-Canada employees if the content clearly associates them with CBC/Radio-Canada. They apply not only to CBC/Radio-Canada journalists but to any corporation employee.

I think I need some clarification on what it means to clearly associate yourself with CBC. There's a difference between running an
official blog and running a personal blog that occasionally mentions where you work. I've got over 600 posts. This blog isn't about my work, but work's a big part of my life. I don't think I've ever named my current employer, mostly because it's not interesting or important, but I've mentioned projects from time to time. I've also been pretty clear that I'm in the communications business. Have I "clearly associated" myself with anyone? Actually, I think the only employer I've ever mentioned by name is the CBC itself.

Hmmm. ANY employee? Well, that cuts out any confusion about who they expect to follow this, but I'm hesitant to apply journalistic standards to janitors, set designers and PR people, especially when they're, um, NOT AT WORK.

When bloggers clearly identify themselves as CBC/Radio-Canada employees, they are expected to behave in a way that is consistent with our journalistic philosophy, editorial values and corporate policies.

I would agree with this if it said "When bloggers clearly identify themselves as blogging on behalf of CBC/Radio-Canada...". This is sort of like your office's dress code. Your boss can tell you that a ripped T-shirt's not acceptable for the office, but you can wear the same shirt to the store even if the checkout clerk knows where you work.

Such blogging should be done on an employee’s own time, posted through a personal e-mail address and not channeled through CBC/Radio-Canada’s e-mail system.

I agree with this, although in practice, it really shouldn't matter if someone occasionally blogs at his desk over his lunch hour. I think this is trying to say the same thing as those annoying Technology Policies that really boil down to "don't waste too much time at work, OK?". Your personal blog should use your personal e-mail address, not your work e-mail. Work time is for work. That sounds reasonable.

These blogs are expected to adhere to the principles outlined in CBC/Radio-Canada Human Resources policies regarding Outside Work, Advocacy and Opinion, Conflict of Interest and the Code of Conduct.

Excellent. Yes, CBC already has several policies for employee conduct that appear to be working just fine.

To start and maintain a blog of this kind, you need your supervisor’s approval.

Whoa. What kind? This comes right after the bit about adhering to existing policies, so Little Miss Know-it-All assumes that that's what this sentence refers to. You still need your supervisor's approval if you're playing it safe?

The blog cannot advocate for a group or a cause, or express partisan political opinion. It should also avoid controversial subjects or contain material that could bring CBC/Radio-Canada into disrepute.

Yikes. That's awfully vague. What's a group? Does a quilting bee count? Is family violence a "cause"? "Partisan political opinion" is vague too -- clearly, campaigning for a federal party is not on, but what about advocating on behalf of Jill Carroll or Alan Johnston?

CBC/Radio-Canada material such as pre-interviews, interviews, research, etc. created or developed while doing your job is the property of CBC/Radio-Canada and can only be used with your supervisor’s permission.

Boy, that sounds reasonable...wait a minute, what's a "pre-interview"? And what's "research"? Those things can be pretty fluid when you work for CBC. You do tons of stuff that never makes it to air. You talk to lots of people about ideas that aren't good enough to fit the "someone doing something for a reason" rule. This can be a formal taped interview that never goes anywhere, or it can be a quick conversation in the coffee shop.

Program blogs or other “official” CBC publications are not addressed here and can only be designed and launched with the approval of the appropriate supervisor. Blogs or websites which do not identify the bloggers as a CBC/Radio-Canada employee, do not discuss CBC/Radio-Canada and are purely about personal matters would normally fall outside these guidelines.

Well, I certainly hope so!

If you are uncertain about any of this, please have a conversation with your supervisor to clear it up.

This is indeed the best way to end a policy “guideline document” like this one. However, the standard way to deal with this is to talk to supervisors first to make sure they actually CAN answer questions. It's a good idea to talk to staff first, too, instead of just dropping something like this on them.

This is far too vague to be of any use at all. It could include just about anyone who works for CBC and blogs about anything. I'm guessing that's the point: cast the net as wide as possible so you always have a
policy “guideline document” to point to when your staff piss you off. In real life, there is no way anyone will be enforcing these rules. No manager has time to monitor the Internet on top of regular programming.


Torq said...

*chuckles* Spot on! I think that you are right, they don't want to define those terms because then they would have to defend them. Keep it vague and you can always pretend that someone misunderstood!

As far as blogging at work... I have to go, my boss is getting irritated by my constant typing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, how messy! This could be disastrous for any Joe Schmoe who utters something that sounds like it might be associated with the CBC. If they wanted to, the CBC could simply quit the entertainment business and make more money by attacking people who violate this whatever-it-is because it's that easy to violate. If I were part of the CBC I'd consider my basic freedoms to be threatened.