Something a bit controversial happened this week with regard to my blog, and I was asked not to blog about it. Yet it’s precisely the kind of conundrum that begs for some commentary and discussion. Not exploring this issue within my own space compromises my personal integrity as a trained writer, published author and former student of mass communication. So in an anonymous way, I am going to try to use my craft to get to the bottom of things.
I was asked indirectly this week by a particular business organization I’ve mentioned within my blog before to refrain from writing about it in the future. (Don’t bother trying to cajole the name out of me . . . I’ve been tight-lipped about an unnamed person I described in a previous post, and I will guard the identity of this organization as well.) Previously I have mentioned the organization in the context of its connection to my life (as is customary in my blog ramblings), and I wrote about it expressly and uniquely from my own experience and perspective. The mention was not specifically critical of the organization (much of the narrative, in fact, was rather complimentary) and it happened to be quite topical to the blog entry. Truth be told, had the name not been used explicitly, readers would have deduced its identity anyway. And might I add that given what I knew about the organization, I was exceedingly discreet in the limited details I chose to mention; I could have written oh-so-much more.
I do not know (nor do I particularly care) exactly how anyone within this organization was prompted to read my blog in the first place, nor why they would expend valuable company time reading the bland and benign musings of a suburban Jewish wife and mom. Maybe they employ someone – or worse, a whole department – whose job it is to find miniscule mentions of the company’s name in insignificant blogs. Great strategy for damage control.
For those readers who don’t know, I created the blog as a vehicle to keep interested friends and acquaintances connected with me and our family life (as unfascinating as it is). With my background and training in public relations, I hanker to control the dissemination and tone of information having to do with our goings-on. Over the past couple of years, I noted how people appreciated the emails my sister and I wrote to keep friends and family informed during our mother’s illness, as well as the updates I sent before and after my surgery. And with our family’s impending move last spring, a very wise relative suggested I create a blog that people could check at their convenience, rather than my continuing to send newsy emails to 100+ people. “That way,” he said, “when people complain that you don’t keep them posted with what’s going on with you, you can turn the tables and blame them for not checking your blog.” I liked that!
Even more importantly, my blog has been a capital way to get me back to my primary passion: writing. I write because I can’t not write. When I’m moved, words and phrases seep out of me like lyrics and notes pour out of James Taylor. I have never pondered who actually reads this, nor truthfully do I care if anyone reads my words at all (although don’t get me wrong – I do treasure my few kind, devoted readers who encourage me to keep it up!). For me, it’s a cathartic creative exercise to put personally amusing or interesting thoughts and observations (and nonsense) into words, much as an artist might paint as creative expression. Silly as it may be, I write with one darling friend in mind as my audience. I know my boys read the blog as well, and it gratifies me to know that I am setting an example for them of the lifelong importance of the skill of writing.
Until I began blogging, I had always written for the red pen of an editor – whether a professor in college, or an executive during my career in corporate communications and PR, or the head of an organization in my capacity as a volunteer. This is really the first opportunity I’ve had to compose and publish whatever words I wish, about whatever topic I choose, in whatever style I like, whenever the urge strikes. Hello, First Amendment – if that’s not freedom of expression, I don’t know what is!
And therein lies the rub with this new media. Plain old regular folk like me have license to write and publish anything we want on our blogs and no one needs to approve it. By choice my blog is not passworded, so the double-edged sword is that I never know who is reading it (even though in my mind, it’s just my one friend), and sometimes unbeknownst to me, my words can be spread across the web like wildfire. But believe me, I keep that firmly in mind when I write. I act as sole gatekeeper and I consequently accept the responsibility for the content I choose to create and include.
So what gives anyone – or any entity – the right to try to censor words and thoughts on my eponymous site? Nothing, that’s what. If someone doesn’t like what I write, there are a couple of options. First, I’m open to discussion and dialogue. Though I don’t have to, I make the choice each time I publish a new page to enable readers to add comments, and my email address is clearly visible on the site, so if you don’t like what I say or if you find incorrect/incomplete information (or conversely you like what I said), you can let me know.
Here’s an even more proactive and empowering option: if you’re so worried about the power of the words of a little lady pecking away at her Mac in Westport, CT (or any other blogger for that matter) maybe you should strive to conduct your business in a way that you’re proud of in the first place. The fact that the organization is concerned about what I might write implies (at least to me) that perhaps they regret some of their actions. Maybe the grand byproduct of blogs as mass media is to make people and organizations more accountable for their behavior and customer service. I’m all for that.
But being so haughty and audacious as to request that I not mention an organization again for worry that I might write something critical is not an option. It’s offensive and so highly dangerous. And though I fleetingly considered not blogging about not blogging, the writer in me just couldn’t not write about this far-reaching issue.