Monday, July 24, 2006

We Didn't Start the Fire

Ever heard of Catherine Sanderson? No? Me, neither. That's her picture on the right. Recognize her now? Yeah, neither do I. I sincerely doubt that Ms. Sanderson's own mother could make a positive ID from this photo, but for now, we'll let that go. According to this article, Ms. Sanderson was recently given the sack from her administrative clerical job at the Paris office of conservative British accounting firm Dixon Wilson when her bosses discovered she was the blogger behind "La Petite Anglaise."

Though Ms. Sanderson identified neither herself, nor the firm, about which she wrote occasionally unflattering things, she was terminated for what Dixon Wilson called "gross misconduct." They told her that, by keeping the online diary of her daily experiences at the firm, she was potentially exposing the company to defamatory and damaging publicity. Ms. Sanderson disagrees, and is suing Dixon Wilson for two years' wages (the equivalent of roughly $98000).

I wish her luck, as I'm afraid that the days when executives could keep their bad, unseemly behavior, which they seem to save especially for their underlings, a secret. As long as an employee refrains from revealing actually company secrets, I think he or she should be perfectly free to write whatever they want, in the same way that journalists can chronicle their adventures, as long as they follow basic journalistic rules of truth, nonmalicious discretion and respect for the privacy of the nonfamous. It doesn't appear, given the CNN article, that Ms. Sanderson did much more than ruffle some twead-clad male egos. Many of her posts are personally driven -- about her life as a single mother, recently separated from her French lover, and raising her young daughter, whom she calls "Tadpole" in the blog. Her blogging about work seems to be particularly self-referential -- in the selected posts I perused, she doesn't seem to to intentionally set out to "out" negative executive behavior, short of how it affected her personally. Just the way a good online diary should be, actually. Everybody has a pseudonym, nobody is described too fully, except by their actions. All pretty clandestine, actually. I daresay, given the publicity generated by her firing and subsequent litigation, the disgruntled executives seem to have drawn more attention to themselves by firing her than they might have by giving her a stern warning and letting her appeal to her 3,000 regular readers. I guarantee you more than 3,000 people read the CNN article, and that those personally familiar with the executive line-up at Dixon Wilson know precisely who had the "plumby Oxford accent" and who the boss was who committed the "unforgivable faux pas" of releasing a Christmas popper before a higher-up.

Ms. Sanderson's plight does, however, reveal an interesting side of what we do here on a regular basis. I have written about work and work-related problems, both here and on the Chron. Sometimes, the things I've said have not been flattering. Could I be let go for the things I've written? I have never named names, nor been too overly specific about issues that roil up at work. But I've bitched about them, certainly. There are others, like Deirdre of Best Available, who have blogs specifically devoted to certain professions (which I would too, if I actually had an interesting profession. See? There I go again!). Deirdre's revolves around being a VFX coordinator. For those of you who don't know what that is, you'll have to click the link (when you're done here that is) to find out. For now, though, trust me. It's a cool gig.

Deirdre is very circumspect about where she works and with whom she consorts, and sticks primarily to discussing the ins and outs of the visual fx biz. But occasionally, even Deirdre has a rant... okay, more than occasionally -- and usually justificably. But since she's anonymous and she has revealed nothing personal about herself, do her rants count as being "defamatory?" I'm a fairly open blogger, in fact. But could my occasional blog blabs be considered "gross misconduct?"

Granted there's a world of difference between the movie industry and the world of high finance. It's a little difficult to fire me for gross miconduct when they're busy courting Roman Polanski, the convicted child rapist, to direct their next film. (I mean, what's a little under-aged sex between top level male movie mavens?) Still, it seems ironic that Ms. Sanderson should be punished for NOT saying who she is, where she works, and with whom. I wonder how a French civil court will find on the issue. You can never tell how they're going to go.

So, the best of luck to one of our own, who is still up and blogging (last I looked). Stop by and push her hit counter through the roof and show those stuffed shirts who's boss. Stick to The Man (or, more appropriately, L'Homme).



  1. Thanks for the generous applause, Catharine!

    It's actually been quite frustrating to have to be so covert. There are so many juicy and interesting things I could say if I was braver.

    But fear of this very thing you talk about keeps me in line. People don't realize what a "small town" Hollywood is. How easy it is to say the wrong thing and be found out.

    Studios are big corporations. They watch EVERYTHING. This may sound paranoid, but it's absolutely true. Don't think for a second that they don't do Google searches and read blogs and popular bulletin boards. They do. People get fired.

    I'll continue to try to be brave and write about the more interesting (more dangerous) topics... But I'm always looking over my shoulder for l'homme.

  2. It must be hell that you can't tell anyone about your wonderful trip to... uhh... New Dehli... Yeah... that's the ticket....


    They do watch everything... So do you think they care about Tim Allen obsession? Or the fact that I comb through the studio restaurant menus with a fine tooth comb? Or so you think they care that when I get bored, I go to the Tarot website and pull a card?

    Man, the guy watching me must be snoozing....


  3. I have a sticker on my car that says "blessed be the censors, for they shall truly inhibit the earth."

    I feel bad for this woman.