Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Social media, email messages are public


December 16, 2014

hansen mug

QCS Managing Editor

Back when I did public relations work (sleeping with the enemy to journalists), one of my favorite pieces of advice to clients who were dealing with the press was “never say anything off the record that you don’t want to read on the front page.”

Now that I again wear the fedora with the “Press” card in the brim, I again issue that warning to my own news sources. “Off the record” can only go so far. If you tell me you embezzled $5 million from the Salvation Army, all bets are off. I may lose you as a source, but what a story!

I would give the same advice to my friends on social media and anyone who uses email, especially company email. Never put anything on social media, or into a text message or email you wouldn’t want Brian Williams to read to the world on NBC News.

Even if you think nobody cares what you post but your friends, your posted excesses can become quite public. I know this, many bosses know this and so do the police. Many have gotten into trouble for posting questionable photos, controversial statements and rants against employers online.

And they always act surprised when they get caught. Look at Anthony Weiner, the former New York Congressman who demonstrated through intercepted text messages why guys named “Weiner” should not be exhibitionists.

Employers now make it a point to look you up on Facebook and Twitter. If the job requires no tattoos and your Facebook photo shows your body sports more images than a graphic novel, you probably won’t get the job.

Even after you get the job, your postings can cause much pain. A friend of mine with a great corporate job in an area where such gigs are rare, lost his job because he sent sexually oriented jokes to everyone on his email list, regardless of gender. Oops.

The simplest way to remember the consequences of going public with private information is a simple formula: postings = evidence.

Anything you put up there can be subpoenaed into public view if the controversial becomes actionable.

Recently, I was able to read a huge batch of disclosed e-mails in a court case. They were sent between employees of the Children, Youth and Families Department.

I’m happy to report this agency gets it. Not a single email was unprofessional or related to non-work matters. It added much credibility to this agency, which deals in matters that are often extremely sensitive and emotional, and except in extremely rare cases like this one, very confidential.

And that leads to my final piece of advice: If you can’t say anything nice about someone, keep it offline.

Steve Hansen is the managing editor at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at [email protected]


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