Nadine Haobsh started an online diary, or blog, this spring as a lark, a way of dishing with friends about her perk-laden job as an associate beauty editor at Ladies Home Journal. But it wasn’t long before the 24-year-old’s anonymous “Jolie in NYC” found a much bigger audience—an average of 1,500 hits per day in June—with its depictions of some magazine beauty editors grabbing all the freebies they could clutch in their manicured fingers. “Even I, only a midlevel editor,” she wrote on May 18, “regularly get Marc Jacobs wallets and coats, plane-ticket vouchers, iPods, overnight stays at the Mandarin Oriental, yearlong gym memberships and, of course, all the free highlights and haircuts your poor dyed, straightened and styled hair can stand.” Ouch! “It wasn’t about exposing people,” the Barnard grad maintains. “I really didn’t think I was writing anything inflammatory.”
But Haobsh found out otherwise. On July 19 she told her boss that a local newspaper had discovered her identity as Jolie and was planning a story on her; the next day, when she met with her boss again to give three weeks’ notice—she had just been offered a new job at Seventeen magazine—Haobsh was immediately ordered out of LHJ’s, offices. “She said they were disappointed in me, the blog was very unprofessional.” On July 21 Seventeen rescinded the job offer. “I felt awful,” says Haobsh. “I was shocked and surprised about the whole thing.”
She shouldn’t have been. But the cloak of cyberspace seems to make many people forget that publicly bad-mouthing your boss or industry practices can get you canned. “You speak at your own risk,” says cyberlaw expert Stephen Lichtenstein of bloggers, who today are estimated at one out of every 20 adults in the U.S. “The closer you get to blogging about your employer or giving out what they would consider insider information, the more you can expect not to be working there too long if they find out,” says ethicist Arthur Caplan. “I wouldn’t be surprised in a few years to see certain companies make certain levels of executives sign a no-blog agreement about the company.”
When Mark Jen began a new job in January, he never dreamed that his blog could get him into trouble. After all, the firm for which he went to work as an associate product manager was none other than Google—owner of Blogger, the Web diarists’ favorite software. “As long as I didn’t run afoul of confidentiality agreements or anything like that,” Jen, 22, says, “I figured they would be all for it.”
Two weeks after reporting to the company’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters and starting to post about life there, Jen was fired. Google refuses to comment on the reasons, but Jen says, “During my termination, the discussion was completely focused around my blogging activities and how that violated the culture of Google.”
Flight attendant Ellen Simonetti of Austin, Texas, ran into turbulence with Delta Air Lines over her blog, “Diary of a Flight Attendant.” Though the blog consisted mainly of comments about her trips, she also answered questions from readers, including one concerning what kind of lingerie she wore. Last fall Simonetti, now 30, was suspended and then fired for posting “inappropriate” pictures, namely images of herself in uniform. Feeling that she was being held to a different standard than male coworkers who had posted photos, Simonetti plans to file a suit in federal court claiming sex discrimination and retaliation. “If you just go to Match.com, there are tons of pilots in their uniforms, talking about their turn-ons and turnoffs,” says Simonetti, who has been unable to find another airline job and has taken out a home equity loan to help pay her bills.
“Jolie,” on the other hand, may not be out of work for long. After her cover was blown, she started receiving offers to write magazine columns and calls from book agents wanting to represent her on a novel she has been writing for the past few years involving—you guessed it—a beauty editor. “It’s crazy—never in a million years would I have dreamed of anything like this,” says Haobsh. But, as she wrote in her blog recently, “while the iron is hot, I’m a-strikin’, baby.”
Pam Lambert. Diane Herbst in New York City; Jenny Achilles; Shannon Richardson in Austin; Dylan Steele in Los Angeles; Nicole Egan in Philadelphia