Fired Over a Tweet
"I'm downtown eating. Surrounded by Mormons and repressed sexual energy." It's not the most sensitive or politically correct thing to tweet, especially when you live in Salt Lake City, but it's certainly not illegal and should fall into the "Freedom of Speech" category, correct?
Well sure, unless you happen to send it out on the company feed, and that company happens to be a major television network affiliate that depends on the viewership of thousands of Mormons.
The unidentified employee who is reported to have worked in the promotions department at KTVX, the local ABC affiliate in Utah, was asked for his resignation as soon as his superiors became aware of the unfortunate message. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before it was retweeted and read by thousands. Apparently, the sender had intended it for his personal Twitter account, but accidentally sent it out on the company feed.
Two hours later, an apology was posted that read: "A personal tweet went out that in no way is consistent with the station views. This issue has been addressed and we apologize for the tweet."
Soon thereafter, KTVX general manager Matt Jaquint, confirmed that the employee who wrote the tweet turned in a letter of resignation, and that it was accepted by station executives. Although Jaquint wouldn't name names, he did say that the person was not an on-air personality.
So what's all the fuss about? Some twitter users that found it amusing, although there were plenty who found it offensive. "Fired for telling the truth?" wrote one, "Now that's a shame." "The guy SHOULD be fired! Seriously!!" said another. Salt Lake City media specialist and former anchor Randall Carlisle explains: "It is just plain stupid to Tweet something negative about members of the LDS Church just when thousands of them have arrived in Salt Lake for their General Conference," he says. During the first weekend in October, Mormons from all over the world collect in Salt Lake City to hear their leaders speak.
"At the same time," Carlisle continues, "I would defend that person's right to Tweet anything he or she wants if they are willing to pay the consequences. In this age of instant social networking one has to be careful, even if a comment is meant to be a joke and not intended for the general public."
This is not the first time a member of the media has been fired over an inadvertent tweet. A few months ago, CNN correspondent Octavia Nasr was let go after tweeting about her admiration for Lebanon's Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, an anti-American linked to bombings and the deaths of hundreds of people.
A study by the internet security firm Proofpoint says that 8 percent of companies polled have fired someone for behavior on social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. But most people are smart enough not to post photos of themselves lounging on the beach when they're supposed to be home sick, or video of them doing tequila shooters with the boss's wife--you'd think.
You'd also think that most people would be smart enough not to hit the wrong button and send a message that could be interpreted as offensive by a large segment of the local population. Still, anyone who uses the internet has probably hit 'send,' when they didn't mean to. This is just another reminder that when it comes to social networking, you can never be too careful.
Next: To Tweet or Not to Tweet: 5 Fast Pros & Cons of Twitter >>
Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want. Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, Oprah.com and many other media outlets. Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on LisaJohnsonMandell.com.