Simon Owens of Bloggasm, a blog that focuses on online media and journalism, recently conducted a very intriguing ‘mini-study' centered about the idea of personal blogging done by reporters, journalists, and other professionals.

He was inspired by the recent firings of two prominent writers, both of whom were fired due to participation in personal blogging.  Chez Pazienza, a former producer for CNN, was fired from his job in February because he wrote for Huffington Post and other high-profile blogs.  CNN has a policy against any outside writing without prior approval.

In April, Michael Tunison was fired from the Washington Post after he revealed that he wrote for the sports blog Kissing Suzy Kolber. His bosses told him that he had brought "discredit to the paper" through his blogging.

In order to find out how other newspaper editors and higher-ups felt about this issue, Owens contacted 250 of them, basically asking if they would be against personal blogging on non-beat issues by their writers.  Of those that responded, 44% "either required disclosure of the blog, issued caveats over what subjects couldn't be covered, or had outright bans on having personal blogs at all."

Many of those that responded gave Owens personal ideas about why they would not allow it; some sited partisanship, while others suggested that non-political blogging subjects would be okay, such as gardening.

One 21st century difficulty is that anonymity is practically non-existent.  If anything is published online, not matter how hard you may try; someone can figure out that you are the author.  In that regard, you must stand behind everything you write, as well as consider the audience.

On the other hand, the job of a reporter is to be as unbiased as possible.  While their professional writing may have little-to-no bias, if their audience also reads their personal blog, they may think differently.  How can someone who is pro-life at home report on the opening of an abortion clinic without a hint of bias?  Clearly, they cannot, and that is why many editors and bosses do not allow personal blogging.  It would hurt the integrity of their preference-free publication, in my opinion.

Interestingly, not a single respondent said that their newspaper had an official written policy about personal blogging.  I cannot stress how important I believe it would be for newspapers to have an official, written stance on this issue.  As blogging becomes more popular, people (especially those that write for a living) are going to consider involving themselves in the online art.  If bosses want to keep their employees from doing so, written policy is needed sooner, rather than later.