CNN fires producer for being smart

If you follow the media business at all, you might have heard of Chez Pazienza — a CNN producer who was fired recently for having a blog. This isn’t that uncommon, sadly. In fact, it even has its own term: getting fired for your blog is called getting Dooced, after a blog of the same name got Heather Armstrong fired way back in 2002. So what happened to Chez is hardly unique. But for some reason it seems even more pathetic for something like this to happen to someone in the media — since blogs are just another medium, one you might hope outlets like CNN would be experimenting with. Or at least should be.

Heather Armstrong got fired for writing satirical blog posts about a place she worked. Why did Chez Pazienzia get fired? That’s not really clear. If you read his lengthy update about the situation — which I encourage you to do — he says it was made pretty obvious that while his blog technically broke the rules (which require that all outside writing be pre-approved by the network), the real reason he was fired was what he was writing about, i.e. the content of some of his blog posts.

It’s still not clear what was wrong with that content, however, other than the fact that he spoke his mind about various aspects of pop culture, the media, and occasionally political issues as well. I suspect it was when his posts started showing up at The Huffington Post (where some of mine also appear from time to time) that certain eyebrows started to be raised at CNN. But even that was never explicitly mentioned when he was given his walking papers. He was just shown the door.

As a blogger who also has a day job with a large media entity, I’m somewhat, er… sensitive to these issues, shall we say. I try to keep the things I write about on this blog focused on my beat, which is technology and new media, and when I stray from that I keep in mind that to some extent I represent the Globe and Mail and that they sign my pay cheques. That said, I think what CNN did to Chez Pazienza was pretty stupid. From reading his blog posts, he seems like a passionate guy, and a pretty smart guy as well. Isn’t that the kind of staffer they want?

Maybe he wrote some things that crossed the line into partisan ideology, things that CNN thought might make people question his ability to be fair or balanced as a producer. Or maybe he wrote some posts that the network thought made it look bad, by criticizing the popular media coverage of some issue. Either way, why not just go to him and ask him to tone it down a little? As far as I can tell, there’s no indication that anyone did that. And now, CNN just looks like a bully, and a stupid one at that.

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