Since I did not do a good job at explaining my reasonings of the postings, I spent some time talking about them in the Free Press column this week titled "Blogging in shades of clear gray". Below is a slightly fatter version of that column. The Free Press had to get a certain word count so this one is a bit heavier.
Welcome to the 21st century. On March 2, I created a good amount of 21st century debate on what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior online by posting once-private blog entries from Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s spokesman, Jason Webber, on my public site, Swampbubbles.com. This stirred discussion online and in offices around the city; some of it was not flattering of Webber and some of it was not flattering toward me.
Someone asked me if I would do the same thing the next time this situation came up. I told them if it was this particular case, I would.
When I became alerted to the issue, my first thought was that there could be something of public interest: some insight to know what is going on in our government.
I also became aware last week that Webber's postings were not such a secret, and this was also confirmed even after I posted this the blog entries. Once I heard in a conversation last week that someone else knew about it, I knew it was only time that it was going to come out. And who knows, it may have come out by an anonymous poster on my site or on another blog. Since I was more interested in the transparency aspect of this case, I decided to go ahead and only post the unflattering blog entries, in which Webber described his initial days on the job.
People have high expectations of me and I know that some people are disappointed by my actions. There is a knowledge gap between what is posted versus the full situation, but because I am unable to fill in that knowledge gap, I am willing to accept the consequences of this decision. I think the online community is particularly vocal on this because of the belief of privacy rights, and I do respect that debate, people should be assured that I am not trolling to try to find the latest dirt on someone to make the latest story.
If a public person is talking about an elected official or things that go on in our government, and if that information is disclosed in a legal format, I would side more on the side of disclosure than not. Too many times, government loves getting the last word in, playing tricks with public information, making sure that you only get what they want you to get. When you have the opportunity to get something that provides insight into how our government operates, there is a case that it should be disclosed, especially if someone is posting it in a way that can easily become public. Of course every case should be weighed on its own merits, but I do think that these blog entries were worth putting in the public discussion because there are not too many first-person accounts of what goes on the 22nd floor before a usually unfriendly departure.
If you post something that you think you could get you fired, but you are under the false confidence that it will not get out because it says “private” or only your trusted friends will see it, then you already are on the wrong track. There are many ways that things could be accidentally or intentionally disclosed including accidentally allowing someone access, technology failing through a bug or improper access. Of course your friends may come and go and you never know which ones may harbor evil or naive intentions. You or your friends could accidentally forget to log out of a computer disclosing private information.
If you are public person or official talking about the details of what goes on in a lighthearted way, in a serious or criminal way, you cannot sit there and think that won't draw interest. If what you said is obtained legally, we have the right to see it because your comments/commentary in front of an audience about your public job is an extension of what you do for a living. Asserting a public right to possibly private comments is a unique perspective, but it is one I intend to pursue and establish as fair game.
There is no middle ground on this issue and I am sure some of you will remain disappointed, but that is a consequence of my decision to do this and one I will live with.