Transparency is something I hold with high regard, so I must apologize to you all.
Most of you readers probably weren’t around when this happened, but long ago I got in some trouble for something I said on Journerdism about the AP-Microsoft video player with my employer (at the time, The Palm Beach Post). My job was threatened, I was written up and asked to take down a post after the whole kerfluffle (the entry essentially disappeared from the site with no explanation, I changed it to “unpublished” status to save it for the future).
I still get 404 reports from the dead link, so I’m republishing it now and will offer this explanation as to what happened (since I’m no longer under threat of getting fired from The Post).
Hereâ€™s the original post from 9:19 p.m. on March, 29, 2006:
Total selfishness here…
#1 – Our site, PalmBeachPost.com won the Best of Cox award for best metro site for the second year in a row. Beating out juggernauts like the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Austin-American Statesman and more. (Judged by a panel of independent journalists.)
We have had several discussions with AP and raised all the concerns about browser and platform compatibility (it doesn’t work on Firefox or MACs). AP is working on resolving these issues, but say they are 6 months away from a solution. Please go ahead and pull down links to the AP player.
Now, it’s everyone else’s turn. Stand up for our users and the future of the Internet. Tell Microsoft and AP’s bedroom deal to take a walk. Earn 100 percent of your video ad revenue instead of the measly cut AP offers. Offer your content so 100 percent (or close to it) of your users can view it without changing browsers, upgrading players and supporting proprietary codecs. Fight the power.
- Microsoft and the Associated Press arranged a deal to share revenue on video ads served with AP content. Microsoft handles all the technology (and sets it up so people can only view the content using Internet Explorer), AP offers up their content, AP partners get a 50 percent revenue share for participating. Iâ€™d raged against this deal since I heard about it because it locked out anyone who didnâ€™t use Microsoft Explorer. I spoke out about this vigorously and often within my company and on the blog.
- Word had come down (in an email) to all the Cox Newspapers web producers from corporate that we weren’t going to continue carrying the Microsoft-AP player until they fixed it.
- I told my boss this was great news (he knew how much I’d lobbied against the Microsoft-AP player) and I asked him if it was cool to post something about this on my blog and he said yes.
- That night I posted a short entry (below) on my blog about how we’d won Best of Cox again and also about how Cox Newspapers were refusing AP’s player until it worked on all computers (not just those with Microsoft’s software). And then I had a brief rant saying that all newspapers should do the same and that we should stand up for open standards on media content.
- The next day I go to work and everything is ok. PBS MediaShiftâ€™s Mark Glaser finds my blog entry, writes about it and contacts me looking for more info. I call my boss on the way home from work and tell him that I’m going to call Glaser back and answer some questions, but I’ll keep things positive for the corporation and my boss says ok.
- In the evening, I talk to Glaser cautious and optimistically, thinking I’m starting a media revolution for open standards.
- I get a call to come in early to work. Some very powerful people are not happy about what I said on my blog and to Glaser. And then I get two calls more during my drive in to make sure I’m coming into work asap. (I lived about an hour from
West Palm Beach.)
- My boss meets me as soon as I enter to explain that I’ve stirred up a hornetâ€™s nest of trouble because several leaders of Cox Newspapers are buddies with and members of the Associated Press board, including Jay Scott, the president of Cox Newspapers and Leon Levitt, the vice president of digital media. They want to fire me.
- The rest of the day was a series of meetings. Some with me explaining myself, some without me (while I cleaned out my desk in preparation for what I thought was coming). And evidently some of the Cox folks had to do some PR dancing to basically say what I said about how AP needed to fix their player to be viewable by all, except with a big wet kiss saying how much they loved AP. (Read update #2 and #3 at the bottom here)
- At the end of it all, a couple of my bosses had a stern talk with me, put me on probation and made me sign a form stating that I’d never, ever speak about the company, corporation or our competitors ever again without having prior review from a boss approving what I was saying.
- A couple weeks later I received another very firm talking to about linking to this story because it was somewhat critically written about an event that Jay Smith (Cox Newspapers president) attended. Evidently, this was one of the first times anyone had ever compared newspapers and dinosaurs because they were very offended…
- So after that I stopped talking about The Palm Beach Post on my blog and most of our competitors (although after about a year I would start to mention quick blurbs here and there about our competitors because I knew the folks in ties would have to actually read my blog to catch me).
So if you ever wondered why I never talked about stuff we did at The Post — as some people have asked me over the years — thatâ€™s why.
(Side note: Iâ€™m really excited to be in a new position now at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where the managing editor, Pam Maples, has encouraged me to talk about whatâ€™s going on in the newsroom, critical or not, in my blog. She believes in transparency and open communication. Itâ€™s refreshing!)
I’m not sure what didn’t get me fired at The Post, the fact that I’d multiple times helped cover my butt by letting my boss know what was going on. The fact that I was getting I was an awesome employee that had mad skills which they were way underpaying me for. The fact that I was Luke Skywalker fighting the evil Microsoft Empire and they’re secret Sith buddies and everyone really knew that I was doing the right thing.
Oh, and as you may know, the AP eventually came around and made Microsoft fix the video player to offer Flash video versions for non-IE users. So I guess the rebel alliance won this one. …and I like to think I had a little something to do with that.
The moral of the story is: You young folks out there (or anyone for that matter) stand up for what you believe in and maybe someday youâ€™ll be able to say you were a tiny bit responsible for making dozens of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and a few national news videos available to *everyone* through newspaper websites.
I also want to thank Mark Glaser for shedding light on the issue, Cox Newspapers for making the right decision refusing to take AP’s player and my bosses for not firing me (because the corporate owners definitely wanted to and could have). …But on second thought, they probably would have had a huge lawsuit on their hands if they’d fired me after I’d asked for approval from my boss multiple times, so maybe I could have been a gazillionaire. Who knows?