While it doesn’t say it in the written warning, Reuters issued the final warning while admitting that I hadn’t received the proper training on how Reuters operates as a news organization, what is expected of their journalists, and so on. A good example is the Trust Principles, which Reuters claims I violated. I had no idea what the Trust Principles were until I was sent to training in early November—two weeks after the “final warning.” I don’t understand how the company can expect its journalists to abide by a set of principles without telling its journalists what those principles are. That’s like trying to play a board game without having first read the rules.
When Reuters hired me, I think they expected a lot. And I delivered. With a staff of just two people dedicated to social media, we surpassed our competitor in Twitter followers. We grew our Facebook following by leaps and bounds. We broke one million follows on Google Plus (on that one, we had some help from our colleagues in London). We grew our Tumblr following tenfold in a year. We created a robust Olympics page, and ran several amazing liveblogs during large events. We experimented and took risks and occasionally broke things. Sometimes, we broke rules we didn’t even know were in place. Sometimes, we changed the rules.
Anthony De Rosa hired you—“took a chance on this goober” as you wrote on your blog—but things have seemed a bit tense between you two since your suspension, especially last week. Why are you seemingly trying to burn your bridge with the guy who hired you in the first place?
I like Anthony as a person and I respect him as a journalist. When I worked at Reuters, I looked the other way when it came to copying and pasting tweets. I figured, we’re all on the same team, we’re all working for the same product, so it didn’t matter to me then. After March, it started to matter. Reuters made it clear by way of the suspension that they didn’t want me contributing to their products. Yet you have someone who works in their editorial department copying and pasting what I post on Twitter, and moving it as if they’ve written it. I felt it was unfair the company didn’t want me in the office but they were still willing to use my work without some kind of credit.
Anthony is one of the best bosses I’ve had. I felt really bad for calling him out. But I feel defending the work I put out was the right thing to do, however innocuous it may seem to lift copy from a tweet. If it had been anyone else at Reuters, I would have done the same thing, though I’m not sure it would have been written about in CJR…
You’re dealing with what has to be some scary stuff right now. The federal court case, unemployment, and now-well-publicized past questionable activity (the stuff BuzzFeed dragged up, for example). How do you think this will all end? What have you learned from this, and what are you looking forward to?
There’s nothing “questionable” about what BuzzFeed “dragged up.” The reporter who wrote the piece has been in the spotlight before for writing a questionable story. Their “source” is the equivalent of a rambling homeless man on the subway. I think the reporter who wrote the piece is really talented, and I think BuzzFeed gets some great scoops, but the piece they wrote about me was a ploy to get pageviews. Let’s not treat it as anything more than it is.
As for where this all winds up, who knows. I still have a pretty loyal following. My work stands for itself. After we win our court case and our arbitration with Reuters, I might take another swing at journalism. Or maybe after the crazy has died down I’ll decide journalism isn’t for me. If that’s the case, there’s a small island, inhabited in the South Pacific, that I will try to swim to.