It’s been three days since St. Louis Post-Dispatch social media editor Kurt Greenbaum bragged about how he caused a man to lose his job and he has since been enduring an onslaught of negative comments against him on his blog.
It got to the point where he had to shut comments down on the post, most likely to give him a chance to collect everybody’s IP address and begin the grueling task of contacting their employers.
It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
Or do they?
Greenbaum still sees nothing wrong with contacting the employer of a man who thought he had left an anonymous comment in one of Greenbaum’s blog posts.
The man left a single word. Pussy. An obvious attempt of humor because the headline of the post was “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?”
While it is a vulgar word, it is not exactly the most profane word in the English language. It is not even one of the seven words that are supposedly banned by the Federal Communications Commission.
Let’s not forget that Pussy Galore was a character in a James Bond movie Goldfinger. Or that Octopussy was the title of another James Bond movie. And both those movies came out more than 30 years ago.
You would think we would not need to pussyfoot around such words anymore.
Nevertheless, it is a word that offended Greenbaum to the point where he contacted a local school after discovering from the IP address the comment came from there. He then forwarded them the email with details that could lead them to the commenter.
Six hours later, the school’s headmaster contacted him and told him that the school’s IT director “took a shine to the challenge” and tracked the man down.
The man ended up resigning on the spot.
After more than 150 comments from people that were mostly disgusted by his actions, Greenbaum responded with a follow-up post on Thursday where he tried to justify his actions by stating that he viewed the opportunity to contact the man’s employer as a “teachable moment.”
But judging by the more than 100 comments on his second post (as well as the first 151 comments), it is Greenbaum who needs to learn a lesson.
Many of his readers are demanding he resign or be fired. Many are simply asking for an apology. And some are saying he should do what he can to get the man his job back.
But Greenbaum has shown nothing but sheer arrogance since his original post.
First, he bragged about how well he sleeps at night despite causing a man to lose his job.
Then he referred to the man he got fired (let’s save ourselves from the technicalities) as a “jackass who posted a vulgarity on our site” on Twitter.
Then he either lied or simply proved his incompetence as a social media editor by stating that by blocking the man’s IP address, which I would have done if I were in his position, he would have made it impossible for anybody at the school to access the site.
No, that would have just held any comment from that IP address in moderation, which would have allowed him to approve of proper comments with a simple click of the mouse. The site would not be inaccessible (although there is a plug-in where you can make it inaccessible to certain IP addresses).
Then there is also the question as to why the Post-Dispatch allows racist comments filled with hate on a daily basis, yet contacts a man’s employer over the word pussy.
First Amendment attorney and Photography is Not a Crime reader Marc Randazza, who is a former journalist, agrees that Greenbaum violated this policy and is calling for his resignation.
Randazza has even gone through the trouble of posting the name and contact info of Greenbaum’s boss, in case you want to let him know how you feel (I reposted it below).
Regardless of what legalities Greenbaum may have violated, he certainly violated the confidentiality between his readers and the newspaper, one of the main principles of journalism; a fundamental so sacred that many journalists have spent time in jail before revealing a source.
In fact, I recently reported on an independent news site that was refusing to give up its readers’ IP addresses, even though it had been ordered to do so with a federal subpoena. Other news site have won legal battles after they were subpoenaed to turn over their readers’ IP addresses.
And here we have Greenbaum voluntarily giving up the IP address of a reader that offended him, destroying the newspaper’s credibility at a time when newspapers need to hang on to every ounce of credibility they have.
And he also cast a shadow of doubt over other journalists and bloggers who do respect their readers’ confidentiality.
I, for one, want to assure my readers that I would never do such a thing, even to those readers who are my main critics. And believe me, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do so.
You would have to make a threat and I would have to take it seriously, which I usually don’t, for me to go to the extreme of contacting somebody’s employer.
More than likely, if you make a threat against me, I would challenge you to go through with it. And we’ll take it from there.
Snitching has always struck a raw nerve with me, but this story has especially struck a nerve considering I recently lost my job at NBC after calling another blogger a prick on his blog (after the prick insulted me numerous times on this blog).
I did so on my own time. From my own home and computer. And I did so while representing this blog, not NBC. And the word prick is about as vulgar as pussy. Not the most hardcore of words.
But the blogger contacted my editor, then her editor and then human resources complaining about my comment, which he never posted anyway.
And I ended up getting fired just over a week later.
These two incidents prove that the mainstream media is still out of touch with the reality of the new media. There was a time not too long ago where the corporate media could dictate what can be published and what can’t be published.
Back then, Freedom of the Press was restricted to those rich enough to own a press.
Back then, Greenbaum might have bragged about getting the man fired in the newspaper. And a few people might have been outraged enough to write letters to the editor. And the newspaper might have been brave enough to publish a few of those letters.
But you would never see a total of 250 letters showing their disgust for Greenbaum as you see in the comment sections of his two blog posts. And that’s considering they’ve deleted a few comments, according to some of the commenters.
They can delete them all but that’s still not going to shut people up.
In fact, people are already starting to leave their comments on Greenbaum’s Flickr page, from which the above photo was pulled.
And they’re not pussyfooting around either.
I am a multimedia journalist who has been fighting a lengthy legal battle after having photographed Miami police against their wishes in Feb. 2007. Please help the fight by donating to my Legal Defense Fund in the top left sidebar, which helps pay for the thousands of dollars I’ve acrued in debt since my arrest. To keep updated on the latest articles, join my networks at Facebook, Twitterand Friendfeed.