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Bloggers Beware: Inappropriate Thoughts Should Be Kept in Your Diary Not Your Blog

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From the sphere of clueless bloggers, a former Boston Herald sports reporter mistook a sports journalism blog for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and, thinking it acceptable to drool over women, described his lust for one of his students. The result? He lost his gig but not his delusions.

You’d think a guy would be more humble after losing his job in May when the Boston Herald had a string of cutbacks. That was a message: You are good, but not good enough. After either 18 or 17 years, depending on which source you want to believe, (The Washington Post or Editor and Publisher), one Michael Gee was celebrating his new gig, a part-time teaching position at Boston University, by letting fellow bloggers at www.sportsjournalists.com, know about his six students.

“Today was my first day teaching course 308/722 at the Boston University Dept. of Jounralis (sic). There are six students, most of whom are probably smarter than me, but they DON’T READ THE PAPER!!! Not the Globe, Times, Herald or Wall Street Journal. I can shame them into reading, I guess, but why are they taking the course if they don’t like to read. But I digress. Now here’s the nub of my issue. Of my six students, one (the smartest, wouldn’t you know it?) is incredibly hot. If you’ve ever been to Israel, she’s got the sloe eyes and bitchin’ bod of the true Sabra. It was all I could do to remember the other five students. I sense danger, Will Robinson.”

Perhaps his students didn’t read the paper, but someone reads blogs. According to Joe Strupp in his E&P article, someone reported the blog entry to a university publicist who then informed Bob Zelnick, the chair of the journalism department.

Even when fellow posters on SJ warned Gee, according to the Washington Post’s Robert MacMillan, Gee didn’t get it.

“Congrats on the gig and the proximity to a hottie, but be careful. Not with her, but with this site. She or your bosses could Google your name and the university at any point and find this thread.”

To this Gee glibly replied,

“Dear Folks: I suppose I should be flattered that many of you think this gorgeous woman who’s half my age would consider having sex with me. Which, if I have any news instincts, she won’t. My problem is losing my focus when I meet her to-die-for eyes.”

According to Strupp’s article, the copy of Gee’s posting with news of his firing first appeared on another Web site, www.bostonsportsmedia.com.

As both a former teaching associate at two major colleges and a former sports writer, I was not surprised. One wonders: Is this the way the sports writers for the last 17 years talked about women–their colleagues, their interns and their athletes they interviewed? Did such attitudes make these women more comfortable?

I do know that some men are quite obvious about their salivating lusts in the classroom to the extent that students will transfer to another class or section. I do know that some fellow teaching associates freely spoke of women in terms of sexual attraction and when criticized displayed the same carefree attitude.

Does another woman really want to hear a mutual colleague or student described as “well, I wouldn’t kick her out of my bed”? One of my student confided that she transferred out of that male teaching associate’s class because of the way he looked at her.

My impression, working as a sports writer over a decade ago, was that sports journalism was one of the last refuge for the male chauvinist and homophobe–from male sports writers expressing surprise that a heterosexual man would contract HIV as Magic Johnson did because it was, after all, a gay man’s disease; to men wanting to know the female athlete’s romantic attachments because it was somehow newsworthy to know about a woman’s boyfriend in a feature story and not a man’s girlfriend, to a snickering report about an underage female ice skater who seemed to have numerous sexual liaisons (without exploring the men involved since the male skaters were mostly legal age), to the assertion that male ice skaters must be gay.

Blogs are not private journals, particularly ones where many people post, all of whom are or aspire to be writers.

There has been some debate about the person who called BU, David Scott. Did he “rat” on Gee or was he just being a journalist, himself, following up an story?

From subsequent emails, Scott learned that others had warned Gee, who blew them off.

What we don’t know is how the female student, the object of Gee’s lust felt. In the Washington Post article, Michael Feldman, who lectures on foreign law and business at BU, wrote on his Dowbrigade Web site that:

An educational institution that has just condoned a student sex magazine called ‘Boink’ cannot very well fire a teacher for simply noting the exuberant physical endowments of one of his students, especially as part of an introspective evaluations of the difficulties of his didactic duties. The remark about Sabras, however, was clearly over the line. As regular readers will note, the Dowbrigade also works at a Major Boston University, and over the years we have had our share of ‘hot’ students, but we would never dream of saying so in a public posting. Other than absolutely necessary meta-leering like the above reference, that is.

Feldman’s comment about Boink and MacMillan’s unqualified inclusion of it are misleading. Boink is not, according to the Web site’s FAQ, an officially sanctioned publication of Boston University and its writers, models and other contributors are not limited to BU students. Note that the Web site isn’t really that daring–no male full frontal nudity.

What Gee did do in a public forum was put a woman, who could probably be easily identified, on the spot and sexualized her. Students should not be subject to such unwanted attention by their teachers or even their fellow students. That is not journalism. That is the creation of a hostile environment, one in which the other students might suspect favoritism and the favored student might feel uncomfortable or conversely feel more powerful.

Certainly favoritism because of sexual attraction happens in schools. It happens in workplaces, too. Yet, unless you work in the pornography industry, or apparently in Gee’s ideal sports department, such lusting and leering are best kept private and away from the workplace and schoolroom.

Perhaps such attitudes like Gee’s once defined the Old Boys’ Club, but now it defines unprofessional and grounds for termination.

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  • RJ

    It’s a tough issue.

    For example, there are several women where I work who are rather attractive. Should I never mention that on my own blog?

    And if I do mention it, am I just asking to be fired for “sexual harrassment” or some such?

  • I always use pseudonyms for the girls I describe.

  • >>I always use pseudonyms for the girls I describe.<< If your descriptive skills are any good, how would that help? Dave

  • I try to be as vague as possible about my profession / paying gig(s) in the blogging world, just to be on the safe side.

  • I am only just learning the power of the net and its dangers. It can also be used to strike at you by showing that you have written something (almost anything) not offically approved of. Your local enemies and the government can both get together to exert control over what is published.

  • To answer RJ’s question: You should first see what your company’s policy is on blogs. As I previously noted in another article posted here, people have been let go for things written that were not work related but made his co-workers feel uncomfortable. The person in question was a vendor/contract employee.

    As for describing people, when I copy edit, I weigh whether the description of the men and women are equal.Oddly enough, I rarely find men describing other men as attractive or handsome and for this reason, the women should also not be so described.

    I have to also add, that if you use the word “girls” to describe someone over the age of 18, you are already in trouble. Same goes for describing minority males over the age of 18 as boys. Certain circumstances are exceptions, of course.

    Sexual harassment is continued or continuous directed unwanted attention that creates a hostile environment.

    The person in question, Gee, was obviously clueless, even after being warned by fellow bloggers–all male. How much more clueless was he when similar patterns of behavior offended women?

    I, personally, do not feel the need to describe attractive men in my blog.

  • In my experience sports writers are exactly like this. Borish, yes. Most of the ones I’ve known however, don’t go the extra stumble and post about it on the Web, saying how attractive and f***able the star women’s basketball player is.

    (And for the record I have no idea in my city who the star basketball player is and couldn’t name one of the players on the boys or girls teams. CYA, and true)

  • I see no literary merit in oogling over attractive women on your blog, unless you’re working for a modeling agency or something close to that. I love the female form as much as the next guy, but it all stays in my brain. That’s what fantasies are for, eh?

  • Joe

    I’ve actually had a very similar experience at my former job. Never in terms of sexual attraction, but mentioning your boss negatively in any kind of online public forum can and will lead to your boss trying to find a way to can your ass. Kinda sucks.

  • I’ve said it before: If you want to write honestly about your lusts and who your hatreds, you’d better change everyone’s name and obscure every detail. Otherwise, you’re looking for trouble.