Thursday, October 04, 2007

Blogging Ethics

So--my church is looking for an Associate Pastor. (We have an interim Associate right now.) In my denomination, the Head of Staff isn't supposed to direct or overly influence the search process, so I've only been to a few key meetings of the search committee. They do, however, copy me on their e-mails.

In reading through their last round of e-mails, I discovered that a committee member has googled the name of one candidate they are particularly interested in. From the results of that google search it was only a matter of a few mouse clicks to discover this person's blog. Now the whole committee is checking out this persons blog and discussing it amongst themselves. For some, reading the blog makes this candidate even more appealing. Some of the folks who are less familiar with blogging find the blog juvenile and worry about potential breaches of confidence that might occur. One actually posed the question, "Would we feel comfortable with a pastor who blogs?"

Of course, they already HAVE a pastor who blogs. Me. But I blog under a pseudonym and if anyone in the church has discovered my secret identity, they are keeping very quiet about it.

The ethical dilemmas abound. Knowing that having a blogging pastor could be an issue for some, am I honor bound to come clean? As a fellow blogger should I let this candidate know that the search committee has discovered and is reading their blog?

What do you all think?


PPB said...

Presuming that this person is blogging under his or her real name, I'm guessing that they know they can be googled, and for whatever reason are okay with that. I think in some ways it becomes---well, is he/she divulging confidences NOW? If not, well, what a litmus test.

Should you tell her/him? I wouldn't unless s/he become the selected candidate--or until after s/he'd been ruled out--just because you're the pastor. If I was search committee, I'd say something.

Purechristianithink said...

The person's name does not appear on the blog--I'm not clear on how the google search led to discovery of the blog, only that it did and, like, pretty much right away.

Alex said...

I think my blog helped me to secure my current call. I blog under my own name, so I was aware that APNCs might be looking at it... I do think the APNC should let the candidate know if they become serious about him/her.

Teri said...

I was found by my current church through my blog, and I knew right away. Several church members do still read my blog. What I did not consider until it was "too late" was that the CPM/COM would possibly google and find my blog. It turned briefly ugly in my interview with them as I had written about some denominational stuff a few months before and they trolled through the archives to find it, then ask me about it. I have to admit, I should have seen that coming but didn't.

If I were on the APNC, I would come clean, maybe by asking a question about it in a future interview. After all, for many people blogging is both a form of communication and a form of self care.

I agree with PPB about the confidences thing--if the person isn't doing it now, s/he isn't likely to start. if she's already in the habit of not writing about family/coworkers/etc, she's not likely to start with church members!

As for whether YOU should come clean with them, well...that's tough. I guess it depends on how you see blogging as part of your personal and professional life.

reverendmother said...

As someone who has tried to guard against googleability, I would really love to know how they got to him/her. That's a little sobering.

No good advice on whether to come clean... I've been struggling with that myself (and no, I still haven't said anything to senior pastor).

Presbyterian Gal said...

Is your blogging supportive self care for you as a private person who happens to be a pastor? NOPE don't fess up. You're entitled to this boundaried space.

Is your blogging an outreach of your current call in this church? If yes, then you gotta spill.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

I agree with PG, you are allowed your own freedom so you do not have to tell.

But I do think you should stand up for this person with the blog if you see them as a good candiate.

Christine said...

Speaking as someone who does not blog but only reads blogs, I think you might wish to reconsider how anonymous you really are. By clicking on a few of the right denominational websites I could figure out the identities of several "anonymous" revgal bloggers (which I did purely out of curiosity and have no intenion of revealing). All of you leave a lot of clues about yourselves and some of your identities were not difficult to figure out via the internet. Your anonymity might not be as closely guarded as you think it is.

reverendmother said...

christine, speaking only for myself and not for pcit, I don't mind when things work this way:
reverendmother --> real life

In fact it would be quite easy to figure me out if you read my blog regularly. I've done the same sleuthing of others--it's fun. I think I basically trust that if people want to do that, they probably don't have any nefarious motives in mind. Even if they do, there's not much someone like that could do to me, because I am circumspect about what I post, since I know that any real-life friends could stumble upon it at any time. I have fudged that on occasion but quickly taken the posts down.

It's the
real life --> blog
direction that pseudonymous bloggers are more concerned about.

I remember PCIT posted a picture of herself with her family here one time. (Though she may have later taken it down.) So if any of her blog readers knew her in real life and hadn't connected the dots, that would have done it! So I wonder whether it's similar for her.

Obviously this is a topic that interests me a great deal, both personally and... I don't know, sociologically?

Purechristianithink said...

I ditto what Reverend Mother said. I know it wouldn't be too hard for a determined somene, especially in my own denomination, to figure out who I am. For me it's kind of like choosing to have an unlisted phone number: people who really want to find me can do it, but there is at least a bit of a hedge against random intrusions.

ppb said...

Since this person blogs pseudonymously, how are they sure they found the right person? I guess in that case, I'd feel rather protective of this candidate, because they don't know for SURE that it's her! or him, but I think you said she earlier.

I, too, worry about the google to polar bear possibility. I don't really care about the polar bear to real name option (any more---at one point it would have freaked me out.) And I would REALLY care about someone who googled and THOUGHT they found me and was evaluating me based on someone else's blog.

I think the search committee should just ask. Candidates know (or should) that googling is part of the selection process. If googling results in this blog and they don't mean it too, well, that's a service-- to let him/her know. If he/she doesn't care, then it becomes a conversation point.

I guess, if I was in your place, I would be inclined to say something to the search committee about the situation--perhaps under the guise that you have several close friends who blog responsibly. But I'd still stay out of it with the candidate.

I do think that pastor blogs can be a nice way of getting more info about a candidate, and of seeing how s/he already handles confidentiality.

Christine said...

The larger question seems to be whether a blog is public or private. Arguably writing down your thoughts in a medium where the whole world (or the whole world with an internet connection, anyway) can read them is not an entirely private exercise. I suppose one could protect one's ano/pseudonymity absolutely by closing acces to the blog to all but invited readers, which some of the revgals have done.

reverendmother said...

I wouldn't say blogs are private. I'd say pseudonymous blogs are public, but protected.

who me? said...

You may feel uncomfortable with real life --> blog discoveries, but really the internet is not a private medium and you do need to be aware that you are discoverable (particularly easily by persons under 30 years old).

I don't think there is such a thing as an anonymous blog if you are allowing anyone else to read it and they are allowing anyone to read theirs, and so on. To use an icky analogy, it is sort of like an STD -- easily spread. And when you blog with someone you are also blogging with everyone they blog with. Sort of.

It is also very common for personnel committes, nominating committee, committees on ministry, etc. to google the names of the candidates before them. In all the interviews I have had in the last few years that had happened. None asked or notified me that they would be doing this. It's just part of the new world.