Today’s Daily Prompt topic hit home for me like a ton of bricks, especially since I have a published, monthly opinion column in a women’s newsmagazine. The question of knowing when to “release” an article or a post is the same as asking myself the question: How do I know when it is safe to open or keep my mouth shut? The answer to that question lies in not what I would like to do, but rather, how much I am willing to sacrifice and risk to publish an article or post.
The possible answers to that question are vast and profound, but if one is careful, he or she can hit the publish button with a lot more confidence as long as they observe some fundamental rules. Some of them may be relevant to you and some may not. Only you can be the judge of what applies to you and what does not.
Notice I italicized the words sacrifice and risk. Inevitably, when we publish a post, an article or any accompanying media with it, we are exposing personal information or opinion about ourselves or someone else. Depending on what type of blog you have will dictate how far you can go to do that.
For instance, I write a conservative, opinion column called “A View From The Right.” The magazine I write for is a liberal-based, women’s publication for the empowerment of young women in the business world. Most of their content leans toward business, but some of it also covers other women’s issues in general. Most of them are controversial, hot-button topics like abortion, sex, marriage, women’s rights and women in politics.
That is not a very safe neighborhood for someone like me to be strolling in one might say, and they are right. There have been many times when visions of angry women with bats, guns and knives in their hands knocking at my door at midnight have crossed my mind.
So how do I handle that? It is simple. I ask myself 7 essential questions before I hit the save or publish button. Those questions are more geared towards my personal blog, however, since I have editors at the magazine who happily steer me away from any libelous material before an article goes to print.
It might be necessary to point out, though that bloggers can still find themselves in a legal or compromising place for something posted on a personal blog. Some people they know may not be very happy that they are broadcasting to the world something that may, inevitably, or indirectly lead down the road to them.
1. Is It Slanderous?
Avoid the words he, she or them. It is better to write in general terms than point the finger at one person or group. Leave out rumor – it is nothing but hearsay and can land one in a heap of trouble. This also includes insults, derogatory comments, opinions and anything else that could damage a person’s reputation. (Character Assassination.)
2. Are The Facts Correct?
You can only be sued if someone can prove that your facts are wrong. If you said a person murdered someone when that person was only implicated, but not yet found guilty in a court of law, you can be held liable. Everyone should become very friendly with the word “allegedly.” Also, make sure the latest poll results you are using are indeed the latest poll results. Polling data changes from day to day.
3. Do Not Accomplice Someone.
Never associate an entire group with the act of one person. Saying that a Catholic Church stole money from its parishioners is libelous, when, in fact, it was just the church’s custodian who stole from the collection basket after each mass.
4. Could You Get Indicted?
Confessing to something you did or what someone else did online may be good for your conscience, but it could also lead to the cops knocking at your door, or others. Try at all costs not to open Pandora’s Box.
5. Could I Get Fired From My Job?
Some companies and institutions have policies and opinions of their own. They expect their employees to agree with those and not attack them in public. Keep the question taped to your monitor that says: Will this piss off my boss? If that question comes to your mind, then you already have the answer.
6. Am I Compromising Myself Or My Reputation?
With personal blogs, this is one of the most crucial questions. Sometimes when you publish something, it may surprise, confuse or shock people who know you. It may conflict with their long-held opinion of you, your family or your reputation. Depending on how you want to enforce or change that view, or what friendships you value, is totally up to you. So choose carefully.
7. Will I Be Looking To Delete This Post Tomorrow? We have all been there, like on Facebook or Twitter. We type in the words, publish them, and then try to delete them. Sorry, it is already out there, and if someone wants to find it they will. Never publish a post until you have had enough time to go over it and reassure yourself that you have not compromised or slandered yourself or others.
8. Don’t MisQuote by Quoting Someone Elses Report. This is one of the biggest and most common practices on the web today. If you are reporting a story, be sure that the quotes you use are actual press releases from the subject’s PR department, from an interview you conducted, or otherwise be sure you note that the quotes are from another, previously published source.
There is a lot more to consider, but these are the most relevant ones. I have this well-known book called The Associate Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. It is an indispensable guide for journalists, bloggers, editors and writers in all professions and especially for anyone active in social media.
Unfortunately, the desire to express oneself on the Internet today is a risky business. Being careful to offer an opinion or supply information without being scorned, sued or looked down upon is a bit tricky. The sharks are always circling the boat and waiting for a bit of flesh to be thrown out to them, so tread carefully.
© Joseph E. Rathjen – All Rights Reserved – 2013
Here are some of my fellow bloggers posts on this subject:
Trackbacks & Pingbacks
- Daily Prompt: Release me – Out with the old, in with the new | littlegirlstory
- Daily Propmt: Release Me | Under the Monkey Tree
- Daily Prompt: Release Me | Awl and Scribe
- Daily Prompt: Release Me | Chicomallorca’s Blog
- The Funny Song | JC Bride ~
- ••Set !t Free•• | mët•aRVhëë•n✪ia
- Daily Prompt: Release Me #photography | ThisCornerOfTheWoods
- Nervous nah, not me | RPMAS
- Daily Prompt: Release Me | A Mixed Bag
- Irish skies|Daily Prompt: Release Me « Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis and Me
- Free Indeed | Prayers and Promises
- Blogging Is Freedom | The Ambitious Drifter
- Release Me | Life Confusions
- Please release me | Neva Samaki
- Sex or Lance-a-Lot?! | alienorajt
- S. Thomas Summers | Daily Prompt: Release Me
- Crow Arrow, Inc.
- Thank you everyone for the love and support | Processing the life
- A Soul’s Plight |
- Daily Prompt: Release me | Motherhood and Beyond
- Daily Prompt: RELEASE ME? FEAR THEN NOTHING MUCH | SERENDIPITY
- I Want To Break Free: Daily Post | Just Visiting This Planet
- To All Bloggers And Writers: When It Comes To Writing, Regret (Yes) Fret (No) | The Jittery Goat
- Nervous | Hope* the happy hugger
- Daily Prompt: Release Me | Moments Thru Lens
- Daily Prompt: Release Me | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
- The Fear of the Blog | readingwithafeather
- Freedom, Baby yeah…! | The Rider
- Prompt Post | Completely Disappear
- Mystery story | Life is great
- Free | The Magic Black Book
- check yourself before you wreck yourself | The Gallas Daily News
- Daily Prompt, Release me (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/daily-prompt-free/) | … Lara Klopp … Variegated Musings …
- My.Vivid.Visions | Daily Prompt: Release Me – Annoying Marriage Discussions
- The Unknown | Flowers and Breezes
- I am Free | ayimas
- Daily Prompt: Release Me « Mama Bear Musings
- Be Afraid Be Very Afraid-It could come back to bite | Kansa Muse
- Putting words to your thought | crookedeyebrows
- Daily Prompt: Release Me | a thotful spot
- Release Me: Letting Go and Moving On | Hey, Miss Adventures!
- Daily prompt: Release Me: An Expereience Worth Sharing | storyofmylife1993
- And the Journey Begins; India | Broken Light: A Photography Collective
- The sound of release | Mirrorgirl
- Setting The Donkey Free | Fish Of Gold
- If I had a time machine or woulda, coulda, shoulda | The Road Less Paved
- Release Me | Kate Murray
- Daily Prompt: Release Me | Charron’s Chatter
- This thing called life. | Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Exactly? I don’t know.
- Release Me: On a rocking horse of time | dark circles, etc
- Daily Prompt: Release Me | Undecided Answer
- Break Me Free – Love, Sex & Poetry (Daily Prompt – Free) | Linda Long Writes!
- Daily Prompt: Release Me | To Breathe is to Write
- Daily Prompt: Release Me! | One Starving Activist
- Freedom and Writing… | sltimewellwasted
- The Cathartic Power of Writing and Blogging | Rob’s Surf Report