Aug 17, 2009

Peer to Peer with Your CEO

Interesting week this August: on Tuesday an ESPN employee tweeted that his employer was restricting the use of social media by its employees. On Wednesday ESPN most openly revealed its policy and gained acceptance for transparency as one of its most important guidelines. What are the implications?

A journalist has two lords often in feud:

1. the ethics of his/her profession
2. the ethics of his/her employer
3. (well maybe three, the spouse being the third)

In another kind of corporation, say, a pulp manufacturer or a stock broker, it goes without saying that an employee can be restricted from speaking out about its employer’s stuff. But in the media the case is not that simple.

Journalism can be considered a profession. With this I mean it’s not just a job. In most societies and definitely in western ones a doctor or a lawyer is always morally taking care of a patient or running a case for a person or “the people”, prior to his/her employer.

They take a vow. But even if journalists don’t, there is a sound responsibility towards the society that, when push comes to shove, overrules brand or corporate loyalty.

I work for a public media company, but this does apply to all media companies, ask any journalist. Yet I know that many have been fired, even sewed by their own employers for - excuse my language - pissing in their own corners (a Finnish proverb).

ESPN, according to a list they published after the above case, prohibits its employees not only from writing about sports but also takes care to note that it may prosecute anyone who does.

A company must have its right to secrecy but a journalist also must have a right to seek the truth and speak out as an individual.

Now, if you build a media presence in the social media, you can try being there as a media company. This is the old fashioned way: Tweet impersonally under your company name or hide behind pseudonyms.

But what if you make a new kind of deal with your employee? What if you let them work as individuals who contribute to your common cause and change your company from the inside? What if you let them wave their own flag and let them work with more passion and less restrictions?

Gradually the company begins to resemble itself: to look like its employees.

Of course this means a whole new era of corporate transparency, a corporate philosophy operating much more on peer to peer trust than before.

Is this possible? If it is, who will control news in 50 years?

If news no longer come from corporate desks but from peer to peer messaging? Sure, the money will go somewhere else from the slow present day corporations, maybe to new ones with state of mind assets. (Hopefully the money comes to me, of course).

But what about the news? Are they reliable in this utopia?

Are they today?

Maybe then people become more aware of the fact that in the media nothing can be taken for granted. Nothing ever has. Not even on ESPN.