For those of you all in and around the CJC, the obvious topic of the past week has been the rise and fall of the blog known as Life After Esquire (LAE), written by a female Baby Prosecutor.
The blog itself had been around for quite awhile, and I had been reading it for several months. In my opinion it was excellent writing and more importantly, very valuable writing. To some degree, it was like The Wonder Years from the perspective of a rookie prosecutor, and I enjoyed reading it immensely. She did a great job with showing prosecutors (especially young ones) as the bright-eyed and eager public servants that they are.
And all was well with it until last week when she did a little too much over sharing about something that happened at Baby Prosecutor's school and Mark Bennett brought it screamingly to everyone's attention. Based on her post, she has been ridiculed on Bennett's blog, in the Houston Press, and she was disciplined. Obviously, she scrapped her blog immediately.
Although I was a big fan of what she generally wrote on the blog, I do have to admit that this particular post did fall under the category of "What were you thinking?!". And, as much as it pains me to do so, I think the Lykos Administration's disciplinary response to her was actually pretty fair, all things considered.
Now, I'm not writing this post to open the door to bashing her. Quite frankly, she's been punished enough for something where she clearly had no bad intent -- just bad thought process. So, let's try to keep our comments a little more cerebral than usual this time, if we can. Since I, too, have lost my job (twice) because of a blog, I think I might be able to shed a little advice on it.
Here are a couple of thoughts that I have about blogging for any prosecutors or HCDA personnel that might want to consider doing it:
1. Lykos and the KGB have the same definition of "transparency"-although Patsy campaigned, partially, on the premise of the Office being more "transparent", it has (shockingly) turned out to be about as sincere of a platform as, well, um, pretty much everything else she campaigned on. I mean, seriously, the entire upper echelon of the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight stay off the e-mail system almost entirely to make sure that they stay off the "Grid". I mean, seriously, the last I heard Lykos herself had sent a grand total of two (2) e-mails to all prosecutors.
Read between the lines on this one, aspiring bloggers: Snookems doesn't really want her Office's business aired.
2. If you are going to be writing about the Office, stay positive or at least stay non-negative-I think the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot straight can tolerate some generalized press about how wonderful the Office is, or even things that were introspective (yet not negative) that a prosecutor goes through. For instance, I thought LAE's post on getting a "not guilty" verdict was very well done, and it brought back memories of my first "not guilty" (which was followed by about five more of them before I finally won a trial!). But if you want to keep the Upper Admin really happy, try some phrases like this in your blog:
-"Saw Judge Lykos in the hallways today. She is as beautiful as she is wise."
-"I really wish Judge Bridgwater would let me donate him a kidney. Not that he needs one, but just having shared a kidney with such a great man would be a life dream fulfilled."
-"The water from Judge Chow's water cooler is the best water I've ever tasted in my life." OR
-"I think Leitner was looking a little taller today."
3. Don't talk about pending cases in any detail-there's just nothing to be gained by this. One of us defense attorneys is going to get ahold of it, and if you share too much, you might be in trouble with more than just your bosses. It's a fine line whenever you are talking about cases. Towards the end of my career with the Office, I did mention that I was getting ready on my last trial as a prosecutor, but I stayed away from the details. Never ever write about details that aren't already public record.
4. Don't implicate your friends in embarrassing stories-just because you decided to write a blog doesn't mean that your friends agreed to be the identifiable subject matter. If you have something you'd like to blog about that might name or identify somebody you like, ask them how they feel about what you would be writing. Me following this rule is why I have never posted an audio recording of a certain attorney singing "My Way" (even though the temptation to do so is freaking HUGE!)
5. Don't necessarily identify yourself as a Harris County employee-I've seen some other blogs that identify themselves as working in a "big city" District Attorney's office. Word of mouth will eventually identify where you are writing from, but you don't need to put in print. And on that related topic, make sure that it is very clear that your opinions are your own, and you aren't speaking on behalf of the Office or in your capacity as a prosecutor.
6. Realize that true Anonimity is very fleeting- I tried very hard to keep my anonymity for about a month or so into writing the blog. Then, of course, Motormouth Murray had to start letting a person here and a person there "in on" the big secret. By the time of the Republican primary, it was the worst kept secret in the courthouse (largely due to me). The night of the Republican Primary run off, I was completely out in the open about my identity. I just never posted it on the blog in print for the reasons stated in #5.
7. You are absolutely going to be held accountable for the statements of your commenters-now, unlike Mark Bennett, I will allow Anonymous comments, because I think prosecutors should be able to speak freely on here without worrying about losing their job just for speaking. Lykos and the Davidians don't like to see a prosecutor's name in print unless they pre-sanctioned it. I think it would be rather chickensh*t of me to be exalting my opinions and then demanding people identify themselves before speaking.
That being said, all we really need to do is look back to the infamous "12 Days of Lykos" from December to realize that the comments from your readers can, in fact, get you fired . . . for a second time . . . in a month . . . and on Christmas Eve.
Good times. Good times.
8. Be prepared to accept the consequences for what you write-you are going to get bashed from one side or the other, and you may get bashed very publicly (like Bennett did with LAE's post). One of my earlier posts on Batson picked up the attention of Scott Greenfield in New York's blog, and I damn near had a panic attack. I had never considered that my bashing would go nationwide.
The bottom line is don't go putting stuff on the web and thinking it won't have a reaction and, quite possibly a consequence. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.
And finally . . .
9. In spite of all these warnings, I personally hope you will write anyway-the stories and insights of prosecutors are just as valuable as the ones coming from the Defense Bar. Maybe it is just the History Major in me, but I like hearing all the perspectives available. There are a lot of talented writers with humorous and insightful views of how the process works, and I'd like to hear more of them.
If you piss off Lykos and the Gang in the process . . . well, we'll just consider that a bonus.
And to you, the Artist Formerly Known as Life After Esquire, please realize that this, too, shall pass. You are getting a lot of attention this week and it may still be around next week, too. But then it will fade away. Keep doing your job and you will be fine. I will miss your writing, and I do sincerely wish you the best of luck. I went through something very similar, and it all turned out just fine in the end.
Hang in there.