David Weinberger reports that Drew Townson was recently fired for blogging. Drew worked for Mercenary Audio, a company in Foxboro, MA that sells high-end audio equipment. According to David the employee's blog did not mention Mercenary, sell or offer any products or services that competed with the company. Mercenary learned about Drew's blog when coworkers passed around a posting about Drew's new baby. The company then fired Drew by leaving him a voicemail, which Drew picked up when he got home from the hospital.
As a new Father the story does put Mercenary in a rather bad light, as new parents have no time to think about anything else than the joy of the new arrival, however, I always believe there are two sides to a story, so I thought I would check in with the company to get their perspective on what happened.
I first wrote to CN Fletcher, the owner of the company and asked him what happened, here is what he said,
"Mr. Townson was dismissed for a variety of reason, the blog "Drewcifer's Tone Zone" http://drewciferstonezoneblogspot.com was merely the straw that broke the camel's back.
Let me tell you a little about Mercenary Audio. Mercenary is a small company that has been around since 1989. We are an ethnically diverse, family oriented company that has 9 employees. Please feel free to visit our website http://www.mercenary.com read our policies http://www.mercenary.com/policies.html [which you will see are exceptionally customer friendly, and barely restrictive by any stretch of the imagination], as well as some of our informational articles [Police Blotter] http://www.mercenarycom/policeblotter.html and get a vibe for who we are, and what we do.
The "blog" issue was merely the tip of the iceberg of policy infractions by Mr. Townson. Let me mention that two of our other employees have their own personal blogs, and we have absolutely no problem with the existence of these blogs. These employees have even taken Mercenary to task in some of their blog postings. Mercenary Audio has its own "MySpace" page, so we are not "anti-blog" by any stretch of the imagination.
We took umbrage to Mr. Townson's blog for the following reasons. At one point Mr. Townson asked Mr. Fitz [Mercenary's C.O.O.] if he could start an educational blog about professional audio. Mr. Fitz said he may not start such a blog. He then asked me [Mercenary's C.E.O.] if he could start such a blog ["going over Mr. Fitz's head"], I too responded in the negative. Yet if you look at the blog, the very first line at the top of the page says: "Mics, Drums, and Rock & Roll: A Music Recording Blog!"
Any blog that references "professional audio" in any manner, by any employee of Mercenary Audio will have that "blogger" viewed as a representative of Mercenary Audio. Mr Townson was somewhat active on the Internet as a representative of Mercenary Audio. The general public would have had a difficult time distinguishing a "personal blog" from a sanctioned Mercenary Audio "blog" or website. Mr. Townson's blog does not have to directly mention our company name to still have it associated with Mercenary. By referencing "professional audio" in his blog site he drew the credibility of Mercenary Audio into question. The owners and management of Mercenary Audio do not necessarily agree with his personal opinion concerning "chili", "recordings" or any other subject. By calling his blog site "Mics, Drums, and Rock & Roll: A Music Recording Blog!" he entered Mercenary Audio into a place the company ownership and management did not necessarily want to go. Talking about such subjects on a professional audio related "bulletin" board is one thing, creating an unsanctioned web presence that referenced "professional audio" and these subjects was a direct violation of company policy, and he was told that was a violation of the wishes of both ownership and management.
The majority of the time stamps on the blog entries were posted during company hours. Our "shop" is open from 10a Eastern Time to 6p [18:00] eastern time. During that time we are somewhat flexible as to what may be done with the time. Playing with the equipment in our "The Methods and Applications Laboratory" [in house recording studio] is encouraged. Researching other audio related websites is encouraged. Viewing sites like CNN's, and "Boston.com" is tolerated. The creation of an 'outlaw recording tools and technique' site was intolerable, especially when it was created on company time, with company equipment, is absolutely unacceptable.
Further to the creation of the blog on company time, using company equipment, Mr. Townson told several members of the Mercenary Audio staff about the existence of the blog. He also gave these staff members specific instructions not to let either Mr. Fitz or myself about the existence of the blog, creating an air of divisiveness among the staff. They capitulated. We have a "family atmosphere" at Mercenary, so it was a legitimate error when one staff member forgot Mr. Townson's request and asked Mr. Fitz if he had seen the picture of the child that was posted on the blog. This was how Mr. Fitz came to learn of the blog.
He held onto this information for several days before showing me the blog. Upon seeing the blog I sat with it for a day or two to let my temper cool before acting. It was at that point that Mr. Fitz, myself, and our Human Resources person met to decide a course of action. It was a group decision that the list of accumulated infractions added up to grounds for dismissal.
Did the timing of his dismissal absolutely suck? Yes, it most certainly did. Had Mr. Townson's son not arrived only days earlier there would have been no "cooling off" about 3 days from discovery to action period and he would have been instantly dismissed upon the discovery of "the blog" and as I mentioned previously, the "blog" was merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of Mr. Townson's infractions of company policy.
Writing a blog post during work hours when your employer has specifically asked you not to write a blog is not a good idea. It appears that Andrew Townson got fired for writing the blog during company time and on company equipment, and how he managed the discussion internally with management about setting up the blog. I might disagree with CN Fletcher on the issue of an employee running a personal blog even if that blog is about a company's industry, but does not mention the company. Rather I think there are ways for an employee to write blog that clearly distinguishes what they write on their personal blog is separate from a company. Clearly from reading CN Fletcher’s comments it appears that Drew Townson made some mistakes in his actions at the company. I hope to connect with Drew in the next day or so to get his side of the story.