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Kentucky bans blogs in state offices

Bloggers and state employees are speaking out about what they say is a violation of free speech.

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Long-time columnist Al Cross is considered the dean of Kentucky journalism. Mostly retired from print, these days Mr. Cross details the challenges of rural journalism on a Web log or "blog."

In his view, it's the kind of up-to-date dialogue of policy issues that everyone in state government should be reading. But over the past two weeks, Cross's site became a casualty of "blacklisting" blogs as well as humor, religion, and online auction websites after it was deemed that state workers were spending too much time on the Internet.

Bloggers, the self-described Thomas Paines of the Internet age, charge that Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) is violating their right to free speech by censoring their content from the 34,000 state employees. But others see a more subtle lesson in Kentucky's attempt to crack down on desktop dawdling, including how much bosses should do to restrict access to opinion sites – and what blocking access to blogs might mean for everything from esprit de corps to the bottom line.

"Whether in [private or public] workplaces, are you going to create a culture of mutual trust or a Big Brother 'we're watching your every move' environment?" says Zachary Hummel, a workplace attorney at Bryan Cave LLP in New York. "We now have so much more ability to monitor what employees do, the question becomes: How much of that do we want to do?"

Kentucky bloggers, especially of Democratic stripes, have been critical of Governor Fletcher's administration. One of the main chroniclers of perceived government missteps is Mark Nickolas, a Democratic political insider. After Mr. Nickolas criticized the governor in a New York Times article June 20, some 1,000 state workers who check his blog, bluegrassreport.org, could no longer log on to it at work.

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