Delta employee not fired for blogging

The story about Ellen Simonetti, the Delta Airlines employee in trouble regarding a photo she published on her blog, is making the rounds of the blogosphere.

Nearly every post I’ve seen in the past two days has got it completely wrong.

See the first line of this post, above. Ellen’s got into trouble with her employer for posting a photo on her blog, not for blogging itself, which is what most other bloggers are commenting on.

According to a number of media stories including this BBC News report:

After she posted pictures of herself in uniform, Delta Airlines suspended her indefinitely without pay. Ms Simonetti was told her suspension was a result of “inappropriate” images. Delta Airlines declined to comment.

It looks like I’m also guilty of inaccurate commenting. In my post on Wednesday, I said Ellen had been fired. Indeed, nearly every other blog post I’ve seen says the same.

Well, that doesn’t look like it’s true – she’s actually been suspended without pay or benefits, as the BBC report says and as Ellen herself says in a post on her blog, Queen of the Sky (the post dated 24 October titled ‘Recap’).

One of the things this illustrates is the reach and speed of the blogosphere in commenting on a hot topic that races around cyberspace, whether the story is wholly accurate or not. Of course, that’s been happening in ‘normal’ media since time began. One of the differences about the blogosphere is the sheer speed and inter-linking of it all. And Ellen has rapidly attracted a massive following (her blog this morning shows a visitor count of over 153,000 with hundreds of comments of support).

So what are Delta Airlines doing about the matter publicly? So far, very much ‘no comment.’ I do think it’s a very interesting public affairs and PR issue, especially at a time when Delta is continuing to face potential bankruptcy (commentary reported today by Delta’s CEO).

I’ve seen some comments on a couple of blogs suggesting that Delta should publicly discuss it all, maybe with a blog. Don’t be silly! Look at this from the pure organizational communication point of view in addressing the type of issue that isn’t all that uncommon. Analyze it. Once you have a very clear analysis, then consider your communication channels as part of your planning. If a blog is an appropriate channel, fine. But I don’t think so.

I would imagine the communication folk at Delta already have a contingency communication plan ready to roll.

While maintaining a ‘no comment’ public stance over what’s mostly an employee relations issue is probably the right move at the moment – similar to the Friendster employee firing issue over blogging a few months ago – much will depend on how further the story publicly develops, and what happens to Delta itself.