Just when I think I’ve just about run out of things to write about when it comes to blogging and independence, the real world goes and gives me a nice topic on a silver platter.
For those that may not have heard, there was a bit of an issue at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). At most of these shows, the various media outlets that cover the event will look at the gadgets or products that the vendors are showcasing and pick a few to win “best of show awards.” Most of the time, this involves writing a little bit about the product and giving it some press. CNET does this for the CES every year. This year, one of the products they were going to give an award to was the multi-channel commercial skipping DVR from Dish Networks called Hopper. According to a few reports, this was going to be the Best in Show winner out of everything at CES. There was just one problem. The parent company of CNET is CBS Interactive. CBS, along with ABC, NBC, and Fox, is suing Dish over the Hopper DVR. When word got out that CNET was about to give a huge award to a product that CBS despises and wants to destroy, the big wigs at CBS interactive stepped in and rescinded the award for Hopper and told the CNET editors to revote. There was a footnote in the article noting that CNET wouldn’t award to products under litigation in the future, but the genie was already out of the bottle. There was a lot of discussion about the rights that CBS Interactive had to step in and squash the award based on something going on in a different area of CBS. One of CNET’s writers quit over objectivity issues. People started wondering how you could be objective if you had overlords with agendas. I sat back and smiled to myself.
Many people take to social media to find a voice when they can’t have one. Anonymous Twitter accounts, nameless blogs, and even venting on Facebook allow people to stay in the shadows while airing dirty laundry or putting frustrations out in public. These people get a lot of value out of using social media to feel better without being seen. The risk of being found out and muzzled is very real. That is something I absolutely will not stand for. When I started this blog, I did it to put my thoughts down on paper. I had a lot to say and wanted to see if anyone would read it. Now, over two years later, I’ve said a lot of things. Some are funny. Some are insightful. Others still are inflammatory or even downright rude. But each of them represent thoughts and feelings that are mine. If someone else were to come to me and ask me to remove a post because they disagreed with the content, we’d have a nice discussion and perhaps an offer to draft a rebuttal. However, the post would stay up. If I had someone come to me and order me to delete something because it didn’t jive with the corporate byline or didn’t fit the image that was being project, I would come unglued. No one tells me what to write. By the same token, no one tells me what not to write.
I’m generally respectful of embargoes and requests for delayed posting. I understand the reasoning behind that. There are press kits and release dates and other things that go into product launches. If you give me awesome info ahead of time and ask me to hold off writing about it until a certain date, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. After all, you asked nicely. Other times, I write about things that may not be public knowledge, like the Meraki acquisition. I went out on a bit of a limb when I posted that. Had someone contacted me and asked me to take it down, I would probably have smiled and asked, “So it’s true then?” The information that I used to draft that post was one part accidental public leak, one part conjecture, and one part analysis. There would have been no reason to remove it. For someone to ask me to put the genie back in the bottle smacks of a kind of control that hasn’t been seen in the broader media in more than 30 years.
Asking anyone to take down a disagreeable blog post is akin to asking Woodward and Bernstein to unpublish their articles about Watergate. It’s like asking the New York Times to rescind the Pentagon Papers. Those of us that write have a right to make our opinions heard. That those opinions may conflict with the opinions of others is the basis for discussion and compromise. You don’t have to agree with anything I say. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to say it. People take umbrage with what I say. They write articles disagreeing with me, sometimes vehemently. I don’t ask them to take down their writing. I look at it as a challenge. I see it as an opportunity to make my position even more clear and win some of the undecided people over to my side. The same applies to my writing. I will correct errors or restate points when they are unclear. But I will not remove a post because someone is upset about it.
I answer to one person on this blog: me. I’m the name behind everything here, and I’m the one that must answer for what’s written. No one can force me to put something up. No one can force me to take something down. That comes with a lot of responsibility. It’s storm that you have to weather some times. In the end, it speaks volumes about integrity and fairness and all sorts of other things we sometimes take for granted in both the old and new media. I also have to be cognizant of this going forward. I’ve already found myself in situations where my blog has had an impact on future employment, both good and bad. I feel that this is important enough to me to bring up quickly in the negotiation process. My blog is a part of me. An extension of my will and thoughts. If you aren’t willing or able to deal with the things that I say here and feel that you have some right to dictate terms to me, then I think the conversation is over. And as my mother will be the first to tell you, I can be very stubborn when the time comes.
I think what’s most important in this whole story is that you must find a voice that allows you to say what you feel needs to be said. You should never put yourself into a position for anyone to tell you what you should and shouldn’t write or say. The only way the someone can be truly objective and open is to create from a position free from constraint. It’s only after we’re free to say what we want when one’s real voice can be heard.