How to get sacked for Twitter abuse: one for the journalism textbooks

A crime reporter was fired by his newspaper for making a series of ‘unprofessional and inappropriate’posts on his Twitter account – including abusing his own sub-editors and a local news broadcaster.

The decision to sack the unnamed reporter, who worked for the Arizona Daily Star, has been upheld by the US National Labour Relations Board.

The reporter’s Twitter account first came to the attention of executives in early 2010 when he posted the following comment in response to a ‘series of sports headlines using play on words such as ‘Shuck and Awe'”:

The Arizona Daily Star’s copy editors are the most witty and creative people in the world. Or at least they think they are.

He was reprimanded by management and later ‘refrained from making public comments about the Daily Star”. But, according to an advice memo issued by the NLRB, the crime and public safety reporter for Tucson continued to post ‘unprofessional and inappropriate’tweets throughout the year.

They included:

‘What?!?!? No overnight homicide? WTF? You’re slacking Tucson.

Suggestion for new Tucson-area theme song: Droening [sic] pool’s ‘let the bodies hit the floor’.

Hope everyone’s having a good Homicide Friday, as one Tucson police officer called it.

My discovery of the Red Zone channel is like an adolescent boy’s discovery of his …let’s just hope I don’t end up going blind.

The final straw for management was a tweet posted on 21 September, 2010, after Tucson television news station KOLD made the following post:

Drug smuggler tries to peddle his way into the U.S.

The Daily Star reporter replied:

Um, I believe that’s PEDAL. Stupid TV people.

A KOLD Web Producer took issue with the post –’particularly with him calling TV people ‘stupid”– and the next day emailed the Daily Star saying:

Clearly [he] is entitled to his opinion, but I feel since this particular account is affiliated with the Star, a tweet like that becomes unprofessional… Again, not a big deal for us over here. And, considering [he] reaches an audience of less than 200, the impact is minimal.

I just wanted to foster an environment of mutual respect as we both move forward and evolve on the social media scene.

The reporter apologised for the tweet but was suspended on 24 September. He was fired when he returned to worked six days later.

According to a report in the Phoenix New Times, the board ‘found that the dismissal did not violate a provision of the National Labor Relations Act that protects communications by employees as long as they relate to–or seek to involve other employees in a discussion of–working conditions or employment terms”.

A report on businessinsurance.com said

The NLRB noted that even though the Daily Star did not have an internal policy specifically addressing social media communications, which could have made the reporter’s termination illegal had he complained about working conditions or employment terms, its actions were not illegal because the messages themselves were not protected by the law.

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