HighTalking: How Blogging Wrecked Linda Keenan’s Career

Once upon a time, Linda Keenan worked as a senior producer for CNN and before that at Bloomberg TV. Now she’s a stay-at-home mother, an avid social media enthusiast and blogger for the Huffington Post (although since the election, she’s taken a break). Last Sunday, she wrote a satirical column for the Boston Globe Magazine called “My Blog Ate My Career.” The column talked about the dangers of revealing too much personal information on the Internet when employers use the Web to research prospective employees. As she notes in her column: “The fact is: I wouldn’t hire me either.”

Linda Keenan

Linda Keenan

HighTalk: As a journalist with CNN and Bloomberg, what was your first reaction when you first heard about blogging and citizen journalism?

Linda: I have been out of the news business, formally, since 2003, when blogging really took off as a force that mainstream media have to reckon with. I am personally glad to see the proliferation and democratization of opinion; I think many of the mainstream commentators have become stale, and some of the outsider voices are provocative and simply fun to read.

HighTalk: When did you first begin to realize that you might be addicted to blogging?

Linda: I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to blogging. I would say I’m addicted to “Facebooking.” I love FB. Not only do I like talking about myself, but also I love hearing what all my friends are doing. It can be mundane, outrageous or anything between. I enjoy keeping up with their activities, since I’m a stay-at-home mom starved for adult company.

HighTalk: How did you end up writing for the Huffington Post?

Linda: I began contributing to the Huffington Post through a CNN friend who is an editor there.

HighTalk: What do you think are the primary differences between “journalism” and “blogging”?

Linda: I think it depends on what the definition of blogging is. I have several friends who are mainstream reporters with sources who post in blog form. They are still reporters/journalists. I wouldn’t call opinion blogging or navel-gazing journalism (that includes what I do). I think it serves a purpose and serves an audience but I wouldn’t call that journalism.

HighTalk: In our column “My Blog Ate My Career” in the Boston Globe Magazine, you explore the concept of the digital paper trail and how it can come back to bite you. Do you really think blogging and social media can ruin people’s careers?

Linda: Yes, I do think it can ruin careers. I have seen it at the very least leave one CNN peer unemployed and several others threatened with dismissal if they didn’t watch it. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. As CNN it would worry me that information an employee puts out there could be used to question CNN’s objectivity. And whatever anyone says, CNN as an organization tries to be objective.

HighTalk: Do you think blogging and social media has shattered the notion of privacy and separation between work and personal lives?

Linda: Yes, I think that is true for many people though not all. I get the sense that many people forget that coworkers or even bosses can see what they’re writing.

HighTalk: When you look back, what columns do you most regret writing?

Linda: The columns I have regretted, I’ve written mea culpas about. I regretted scorning Sarah Palin in a classist/sexist sort of way, and Hillary Clinton in a sexist way. I also have picked on Ben Bernanke, the Fed Chairman, and I think he seems like a decent guy, but stuck with a terrible mess. I don’t regret it, but feel a bit badly about it. As for revealing things about myself, I don’t think I regret anything.

HighTalk: If you do manage to find full-time employment, what would you like to be doing?

Linda: I’m really not sure. Sometimes I think news, sometimes I think Trader Joe’s.

HighTalk: Any advice for budding bloggers out there?

Linda: Pick a niche and stick with the niche. The narrowly focused blog, to me, is often so much more interesting than the scattershot kind.

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