Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Threatening remarks, the F.B.I. -- and your privacy

Guarding your privacy and security against prying eyes -- especially Gannett's -- has always been my No. 1 concern, and it always will be. I do everything possible to make sure your comments, e-mail, and snail-mail stay confidential, and in my hands only.

But I draw a line at comments that are threatening to others -- especially now, when there's already enough anxiety at Gannett's newspapers over a big layoff scheduled for next week.

I'm now going to tell you about a comment last week that totally crossed that line. It prompted an investigation over the weekend involving Corporate, the U.S. Justice Department, the F.B.I., and Internet giant Google, according to Gannett. The company said yesterday that the inquiry was resolved after it was determined the comment's author did not pose a threat.

There's probably a broader story here about blog publishing ethics, and new workplace management challenges posed by emerging Web technologies. But I'm just going to stick to the facts at hand for now. Although I was mostly a bystander, I'm privy to some details.

What happened
Last Wednesday at 11:02 a.m. ET, a reader posted a comment, anonymously, in response to my call for workers who had already been laid off; I wanted their advice, to share with current employees. Anonymous@11:02 a.m.'s comment: "I brought a gun to work but decided not to use it."

I did not know anything more about the author, including whether he or she was serious. It was one of more than 200 reader-posted comments that day. Indeed, I have no way of tracking or otherwise tracing any comment posted by anyone here. I do not have access to that information, nor do I want it.

But Google does have such access, because it owns the web-based Blogger software that millions of bloggers use worldwide -- including me. And like many technology and telephone companies, Google will turn over to law enforcement authorities certain information only they can access -- when presented with a subpoena. (Read Google's privacy policy.)

To cut to the chase, after considering several options, I grew concerned enough to e-mail Gannett's chief spokeswoman, Tara Connell on Saturday. I told her I needed to draw the company's attention to a comment, which I included with my note. She replied quickly. In a follow-up e-mail, I told Connell I did not know anything more about the author.

How it was resolved
I provided no further information to Gannett or to anyone else, nor was I asked to. Later, I learned the following, from a series of e-mails sent to me yesterday and earlier by Connell and by Gannett's general counsel, Kurt Wimmer:

By Sunday, Wimmer had spoken to the Justice Department's Computer Crime Division. That evening, Google had provided to authorities the author's geography at the time the comment was posted. Yesterday, Connell told me in an e-mail: "Google and the FBI found the person who posted the gun item and determined he is not a threat."

What readers are saying
Reaction so far has been all across the waterfront. "Jim, YOU SUCK!!!" said Anonymous@1:18 p.m. in a new comment. On the other hand, Anonymous@1:27 p.m. declared: "Kudos, Jim!"

I wish this had never happened. The vast majority of my readers are terrific, responsible, adult bloggers. But in this case, one person caused a lot of unnecessary anguish over the weekend and beyond. Please don't ever do this again.

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.


  1. Jim,
    Thank you for being responsible and accountable in your administration of this blog. I appreciate your integrity.

  2. So Tara still wouldn't respond to you?

  3. 1:10 am: No, that is not correct. She responded very quickly. I'll clarify that.

  4. "I do everything possible to make sure your comments, e-mail, and snail-mail stay confidential, and in my hands only."

    What does this actually mean. If they were able to subpoena Google and get information, what chance do you have? Did you get a subpoena based on the threat?

  5. I did not receive a subpoena, because I do not have access to any information that would identify any comment author.

    Only Google can access that information, and it only gives that information to law-enforcement agencies presenting a valid request, such as a subpoena.

  6. You didn't actually answer the first question in the post. How are you protecting the confidential information that you are receiving including email addresses that you receive from?

  7. Sorry about that; I'm getting hit with lots of questions right now.

    First though perhaps obvious: I don't share e-mail addresses or any other information with ANYONE that might identify a reader with anyone.

    I don't send e-mail to more than one reader at a time, to avoid accidentally disclosing addresses to a larger list.

    I allow anonymous commenting, so employees don't have to disclose anything in a screen name that might identify them.

    Regarding snail-mail I occasionally read during videos: I always edit the mail to remove any identifying information about the sender, including their state.

    I do not allow anyone to access my online Google Documents, even on a read-only basis.

    I do not publish for public view any individually-identifiable data gathered by the three Web analytics software services I use: Site Meter, StatCounter and Google Analytics.

    Finally, I am the only person who has access to the back side of this blog for tasks such as editing, publishing and editing comments.

  8. Jim: You did the right thing in this matter.

  9. Jim,
    This is a big problem for your readers and posters.

    First of all, you can kiss this blog goodbye! The fact that you did not protect the poster has lost you some serious credibility.
    Second, the fact that you are posting this scandal now, just before the long holiday weekend when traffic to your blog should drop, means you are trying to hide your wrong doings and protect only yourself!.

    Third, you will certainly lose your audience because I can't imagine anyone would ever want to read this blog from a work computer either a Gannett office or not!

    Finally, you screwed up by not just deleting the comment when the crazy post initially appeared on your blog.

    Jim, I am not sure how you recover, but I will say that this is my last post and viewing of this blog.

    You failed us.

  10. How in the world could Jim have 'protected' this poster? Obviously from Jim's play-by-play, Google and the Justice department had no need to discuss anything with Jim, the Blogger TOS undoubtedly leaves that door open.

    I stopped caring a long time ago when someone told me they were going to stop reading because of something I wrote. You try to please everyone and you're no longer writing journalism, you're writing fiction.

    Jim, thank you for passing the comment on to Tara. The gun comment was worrisome, but probably no more so than the fact that people do think that way, and don't tell anyone.

  11. 5:53a I agree with your assessment although I am not sure Jim revealed any identity of the poster.
    I do believe that Gannett IT is going on a witch hunt now and will start looking at the computer and internet usage of each employee going to this blog because of this particular event and because Jim did not remove the bad comment from his blog in time.

    Is it wrong for Gannett to do this now? Certainly not. They own the computer and they pay you for your work.

    Reading and posting to the Gannett Blog is probably not appropriate work behavior with their computer, their network and on their dime.

    Unfortunately, this too is my last post and the last time on this blog.

    Disclaimer: this was posted on my own time, on my own computer, in my own house (that Gannett partially helped me buy).

    Goodbye Jim.

  12. Well Jim. This does look like the end of the road for your blog and for us participants.

    I did not see you thanking Gannett for their investigation and conclusion of this matter.

    In a time like this where this blog brings out the worst in people, threats like these are a serious matter and I am glad Gannett Management cares enough to protect the workplace from the crazy idiots that post to this blog in such a venemous way.

    So, I want to thank Gannett for doing what they did because you won't see Jim or his followers thanking you as they will find the bad and negative in anything Gannett does.

  13. Jim,

    Here's my $0.02. Either you're independent from Gannett and the Government or you're not. All my life, we've been lectured by "journalists" how they couldn't be coerced by government or business tyranny.

    How many times have 'journalists' refused to notify US commanders in Iraq about impending attacks on US forces because to do so would compromise independence. And you all in the media defended the practice.

    If someone posts something hincky, just deleted the damn thing and go on. It's called editing - you all have done it forever.

    Walter Abbott

  14. First, I'm a little disappointed because I assumed that the gun totin' Gannett employee was a woman. Now we know it was a man.
    Second, [blows kiss to the departing readers] don't let the door hit you on the way out, people. Jim did the right thing to tell corporate that someone was thinking "gun." And corporate did the right thing, for workplace safety, digging into it. And if you don't like that, too bad.
    How many times have we covered stories about disgruntled employees wreaking havoc on their former place of employment?
    How would we feel if we saw the post, nobody did anything about it and something really bad happened.
    Better safe than sorry.
    I can't imagine that people will stop reading the blog because Jim did the responsible thing.
    [Jim, they'll be back. They can't stand not to know what's going on. And if they don't come back, new readers will replace them.]

  15. Jim you are a true professional and handled the above situation beautifully.

    And as to you 5:53am: do you not read properly? Jim said, "Only Google can access that information, and it only gives that information to law-enforcement agencies presenting a valid request, such as a subpoena." Moral of the story: don't make terroristic threats and you won't get yourself in trouble!

    And as to the rest of you: why on earth would you EVER go on gannettblog to read or to post while at work? The IT department CAN bust you for it and more (if they really wanted to).

    While America is still a FREE COUNTRY, one must follow company rules and not use a company computer for WORK and one must never make terroristic threats verbally, in writing or on email.

  16. Predictions:
    1. This blog is dead because of this witch hunt and the pressure for Jim to step down and the toll it takes on Jim and Sparky's relationship.

    2. Jim goes to work for SF chronicle (sources tell me he has been meeting and interviewing with Frankie V)

    3. There is an extremely high correlation between people laid off on Dec 3rd and those that have been the going to this blog frequently (as determined by Gannett computer people and other tools)

    4. Gannett survives as a company and comes out even stronger than many anticipate but not without some serious management shake up.
    5. Those that are laid off are all finding jobs in new industries, but will still curse Gannett.

    6. Life goes on and we laugh off the existence of this blog.

    Jim, it was nice knowing you, but I agree, this blog is dead. Thank you for your hard work. You have jumped the shark.

    For a sounding board for a group of intellectuals, come on. Don't be stupid. You can't make threats, if your life was remotely threatened or even a hint of danger, you would want protection.
    be responsible!

  18. Anybody remember a little First Amendment court case Schenck v. United States?

    OWH wrote "the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic."

    If there are threats you feel you need to make, start your own Blogger page and go nuts. Maybe Google and the Justice Dept. won't notice you.

    But if you make them here, don't excoriate Jim for alerting the authorities. Not only is it his privilege as owner, but it's also probably his legal liability if he doesn't.

  19. I applaud Jim for his attention and action. It was a lesson in responsibility that I hope rubs off on Gannett. In other words, I hope the company provides more resources to the sites so that the Gannett forum comments can be monitored more closely and handled with the same kind of care and attention that each comment on this blog gets. If a volunteer blogger can do it, a huge corporation can too.

    Kudos to Jim.

  20. To those that are freaking out because the gun comment poster was rooted out.....I really dont get your thought process.......what would you do if your child told you that another kid had brought a gun to school?.......would you be worried about protecting that kids identity?

    Do you realize how incompetent you are making yourselves look?

  21. Kill the drama, folks (and please, report me to the FBI for that threat). Threats need to be specific enough to be actionable. In crime-ridden cities of the North, I've known award-winning photographers who have carried automatic weapons in the trunk of their car for their own safety. Yep, they brought the car to work. In the South, handguns in the glove compartment or rifles on the window rack of your pickup are part of the lifestyle. Yep, they drive the car to work. And law enforcement knows that better than anyone else.

  22. There used to be a sign on the back door (employee entrance) of the Muskogee Daily Phoenix, formerly a Gannett paper, that said something like "No guns." It had a picture of a weapon with the red ring/crossout over it.
    One of the women reporters carried a weapon, always. She also raised pit bulls.
    The paper, I believe, was "given" to the Freedom Forum which sold it for fun and profit.

  23. 11/26/2008 7:11 AM

    There is no reasonable reason to bring a firearm to work....the key word being "reasonable"

  24. Havin a weapon in your vehicle is one thing.....bringing it into the building is another.

  25. 7:20 AM: They carried "automatic weapons" to work? I doubt that. Do you mean semiautomatic rifles or pistols? If so, say that.

    I hope you're not a journalist, but your typical ignorance and hysterical mislabeling of firearms leads me to believe that you are.

  26. [7:20 a.m. here]
    I didn't specify make, caliber or configuration. The reporter carried a pistol in a holster compartment in her purse. Nobody would leave a pistol in the car for fear it would be stolen.

  27. I'm with you 6:28. Common sense here people!

    Jim - thanks for all you are doing.

  28. Journalists are members of society and are not objective outsiders. If you consider yourself otherwise, please stop reporting on my society and go report on someone else's.

    In any case, what Jim did was not in violation of any ethical standards since all he did was point out to certain people an entry that was publicly available to anyone who cared to look.

    If we had a similar blog on one of our websites where we ask what people did when they were laid off and someone made a similar comment I'm willing to bet we wouldn't have a second thought about shooting that comment over to the police and even go some steps further in opening up our systems so they could track down who posted it. If we didn't then we would have to explain to our customers why we didn't and I can guarantee you that our excuses of journalistic ethics would not go over well with them.

    Those who think otherwise are kooks and if any of you are still working for my company then please get out now. There's no more room for you at a publicly traded and publicly responsible company.

  29. Jim and Gannett did the exact right thing in responding quickly to a possible threat. Even though we all could place bets that the poster was just blowing off steam, none of us should want the new expression to be "he went newsroom.'' My spouse has expressed concern more than once that someone across Gannettland might feel desperate enough to inflict violence. I still think it's unlikely but I am concerned enough to be glad that Jim responded to the matter as a grown up. Give the guy a break already. Happy Thanksgiving, Jim, to you and Sparky.

  30. JIM:

    You did the right thing. To 5:53 and all the other overly paranoid posters, look at the offending posting in its entirety: I brought a gun to work today BUT I DECIDED NOT TO USE IT. That means at some point, the poster had thought about using it. I'm sure if Jim had not blown the whistle on this person and god forbid, people ended up dead, you guys would be the first to jump on bandwagon to excoriate him for NOT alerting Gannett to the danger.

    Damed if you do and damned if you don't Jim. Just keep being responsible. That's what you're very good at.

  31. Maybe I'm just being naive, but isn't it possible to investigate this type of threat discreetly, without revealing the identify of the poster? Can you confirm that Justice Department disclosed the poster's identity to Gannett?
    Even if so, my own $.02: Anyone foolish enough to make threats against his/her employer in a public forum, even one with a reasonable (emphasis on reasonable) expectation of privacy deserves to lose his or her job. Coming just before staff cuts, he/she may have inadvertently saved a more deserving neck!

    Jim - you did the right thing in a tricky situation. I'm sure for most of us, your integrity and credibility has been reinforced, not undermined.

  32. I think it is funny everyone on this blog is praising Jim. For what? Waiting a few days to inform Gannett of the posting after his own posting community said he should make corporate aware of this? That is worthy of praise?

    Bullshit. Jim probably did nothing. Did he call Google, the FBI?

    Hey reporters, get your facts straight.

    Jim, why don't you remind us of your heroism here because I cannot find it.

    You are the cause of the hype and shit that appears on this blog. And I am sure you are just as guilty as the poster of the gun comment for letting that blog posting appear without removing it.

    So let's summarize...Jim did nothing other than let corporate know he has another stupid post on his blog after everyone forced him to do mention it to Tara Connell. Big deal!

    Jim you are worthless and this blog is full of self rightous reporters who are clinging onto every piece of negativity it can.

    Unfortunately this blog does nothing but create hysteria from a bunch of sheep following each other.
    Jim, I am sorry to say, this blog is worthless and your reporting (if that is what you reporters/journalists call it) is 2nd grade.

    Then again, you are a blogger making $2,000 a year asking for handouts, what should we expect.

    Sleepless in NJ

  33. oops - have been. oy. (the hazards of posting during work - for my non-Gannett employer!)

  34. Amen 8:47. Reporters want to be reporters on one side and then citizens on the other side.

    "Worthless" is a great way of summarizing jim, this blog and the people defending a cranky old gay man looking for "handouts".

    I love it. God bless you Jim may you find a new hobby!

    You old timers are holding onto a dying blog. Keep clinging to this blog like you are clinging onto those papers!

  35. Thanks Jim. Now we have big brother on top of us. I had our IT people at our newspaper doing random checks of our computers the other day!

    I am not going near this blog anymore!

    Give me back my $10 I sent you.

  36. To all the people slamming Jim and this blog: The only element that may be driving me away from this blog is you.

    Don't like it? Then go away.

  37. Jim,

    You did exactly the right thing.

    Thanks for all your work on this blog. If you get a gig in SF, as one of the posters suggests, good for you. But we'll miss your dedication to this effort.

    As for the those who never intend to read the blog again, goodbye. Skip the drama, and just disappear - nobody cares what you read.

    I'm writing as an ex-Gannetteer with many friends still in the company. This blog does a great job of helping everybody follow what's happening.

    Thanks again, Jim.

  38. Wow. Jim you did the right thing. I love what I do, and the work place is stressful enough, but thanks to Jim this particular threat won't be coming to work with us. Imagine an employee saying directly to you that they had the same idea. Would you dismiss them? I'd hope not. This person said the wrong thing to a crowd of people. Given our circumstances I think the actions taken were absolutely appropriate. I don't fear guns, but an over stressed employee facing a layoff and saying nothing more than I'll bring a gun to work raises alarms all around me.

    Sleeping soundly in NJ

  39. I'm just thinking ahead to the day that someone actually did post that and say they were bringing a gun to work and Jim didn't report anything to anyone. Then I can hear all the bitchers say "Why didn't Jim do anything. I mean, he had the information and ability to do something but he just sat around and played goo goo eyes with Sparky."

    You guys are incredible. Damned if you do. Damned if you don't. Whatever the outcome of any situation on this blog – you bitch.

    Good example, the last round of layoffs everyone bitched because there wasn't enough notice given. This time you're bitching because there's too much notice. Aih Aih AIh... Lucy, you're driving me crazy.

  40. Jim
    Thank you for being up-front about the events of the last few days. I'm convinced you did the right thing (6:28 AM gets it.) I'm wondering who is taking this opportunity to try to besmurch you -- they must really be threatened by this blog. If anyone is to be criticized, let it be the poster, who for some reason doesn't understand the seriousness of that comment and (probably) thought he was being funny. Has he not been in an airport recently and read the signs warning people not to say things like that? It's a different world, and that stuff isn't funny any more. And -- conspiracy theorists, I doubt the Feds are spending a lot of time monitoring this blog, what with the terrorists and all...

  41. And what exactly is everyone upset about? Gannett is not getting all of our identities from Google. Only the one who made the (dumb-ass)comment. Instead of telling us you are not going to read anymore---just stop reading.

    And by the way---this is Jim's blog. He can do whatever the hell he wants. If i get sick of Dorothy, Sparky or too much of the dumb-asses who aren't reading anymore, I can go somewhere else. Or start my own---by the way---how's that Gannettblogsucks doing?

  42. Jim-you did great. A gun at any Gannett work site is wrong and I will defend your right to let people know. Keep on with what you are doing to protect us at work.

  43. @6:38 is so full of shit! There are a bunch of Gannett higher ups posting to scare people. Gannett is so threatened by Jim and this blog that they are using this incident to try to put an end to this blog. Instead of wasting time trying to dismantle this blog maybe you should try to figure out away to salvage what is left of your pathetic company. I know people that work in IT and they do not try to find out who is on this blog, that would take more man power and money, something that Gannett is lacking these days.

  44. I support everything Jim did in this case. As a long-time journalist myself, I believe there are times when being a human being is more important than clinging to certain journalistic principles.

  45. Typical Gannett management scare tactics, try to intimidate employees into shitting their pants. There is no way Google is giving up anyones info the Gannett, one idiot made a life and death threat and that is why he was found, to protect lives. Telling horror stories on this blog about how bad you boss treats employees is not a life and death situation.

  46. Jim, you did the right thing. Any threat is serious. Post your address and I will send you $10.00

  47. I would think you'd want to know the IP address of posters -- not an e-mail address, but a computer ID that's passed to the server with every web transaction -- if only to uncover any manipulative converstations -- ie, a question and answer coming from the same computer in an attempt to start something. The IP address will tell you a lot but you don't have to investigate, just note patterns once in a while.

  48. Jim, I disagree with almost everything about this blog. But you absolutely did the right thing in this case.

    As someone else has posted -- fire in a crowded theater, folks.

  49. Sleepless in NJ...

    I don't normally respond to flaming comments on here, but yours I can't pass by. If I recall from all of the posts (assuming all of the SLEEPLESS IN NJ postings are yours) that you have posted they can be summed up in a few sentences. You are so scared and upset that you are going to lose your job that you can't sleep. You are upset that Gannett the horrible company who has been paying your bills is possibly going to let such a hard worker as yourself go. (See post below.)

    Anonymous said...
    I can't sleep. Started 6 days off on Friday and I can't sleep at night. I hate Gannett. Maybe they'll lay me off during my so-called vacation week! I hate Gannett.
Sleepless in NJ
    11/16/2008 2:29 AMS

    Perhaps if Jim was as useless and even a non-journalist he could bring attention to this posting to Tara Connell and maybe she could get someone to find out who you are and have you removed from the building. Or better yet, maybe there's a Supervisor in NJ that has an employee that took a vacation on Friday of 11/14 and is off for 6 days. I'd look at that employee and watch them closely. Do you guys honestly think that Gannett or Tara Connell or Dubow or any other manager give a rats ass what we say on this blog? Or are concerned with what someone is saying against the company. Not that I'm a big fan of them myself, but I'll give them the credit that they have bigger things to worry about.
    BACK TO SLEEPLESS – So you read this blog in hopes for some sort of news that you can't get at work. And because we all can't just sit by and wait like ADULTS everyone is acting like Kids on here and turning on each other. People are blaming Jim and making it his fault. Jim never promised anything to us when he started this blog. Now you're taking your grief out on him. I'm not taking up for Jim. He's a big boy and can handle himself. But you read this blog EVERYDAY (All of it) with hopes of just a glimmer on what's going on because you don't know anything more than anyone else. The thing is NO ONE KNOWS except the VPs, publishers and corporate. They're not spilling their guts. We'll just have to wait. THIS BLOG provides me with an overall picture of what is going on at the different sites. Let's say this blog wasn't here. Then we wouldn't know that some people received 2 weeks in the first layoff and now we're only getting 1 week. We wouldn't know that the Detroit paper hasn't been touched or that the Indianapolis publisher was able to let go of far less than say another paper. Or that only 20 employees are being let go at USAT. Or what questions we should ask when we're marched to HR.

    As to why Jim is not giving us the goods on what's going on. He can't. Do you think a VP is going to risk leaking something in fear of losing their own job? And If you guys remember it was THIS BLOG that let everyone know DEFINITELY that layoffs were indeed coming – straight from Dubow's mouth. We didn't receive the letter from Dickey for several days later. It was Jim's blog that was credited for reporting it first.

    And Sleepless in NJ. I'm not sure whether you have subscribed to Jim's Blog or not. You made no mention of wanting your money back. And I'm not saying whether you have or not. But I'm sure there are a lot of people "Bitching" who haven't sent in one red cent. And Sleepless, if you did send in money... send me your address and I'll be glad to refund your lousy $10.

    I for one am glad that Jim is taking care of what is posted on his blog. I've been on other blogs where the blog owner lets anything go on. Perhaps it would have been better for NOTHING to have been said by corporate about the impending layoffs. And for THIS BLOG to have never been created. Then everyone could have went on about their little lives... spending money like there's no tomorrow. Then when they walked you into the office on 12/3 telling you that you no longer have a job you would not have been prepared. I for one am glad it is working out this way. I know what MIGHT be coming and am getting my life in order. So grow up. Pull up your big boy/girl pants and let's get this over with.

  50. To all those who predicted the death of this blog, it's still here.
    Thanks, Jim

  51. Jim - Don't let the critics get you off message. Yes, you did right by reporting the comment.

    The bigger story, however, is how sad our work environments have become, and how stressed all Gannett journalists are, because of the bad decisions of this company.

    THAT anyone in our business would consider violence just shows us how bad the situation has become in our newsrooms and in all our plants, Gannett or not.

    I have been a big critic of Gannett, and the post implying violence MUST serve as a wake-up call to the executives of Gannett that these layoffs are not just cold business decisions based on the economy, that these decision crush people's souls and ruin lives. The trauma of that is very real, and hurt real people.

    Perhaps those in The Tower have forgotten they are playing with the lives of real people. That is real news.

  52. As someone who was the target of workplace threats nearly 15 years ago, Jim absolutely did the right thing.

    I was stalked by a co-worker at the Asbury Park Press in 1994. The paper was still family-owned at the time, and the person, whose threats included death threats, was using the company's computer system to make those threats. They poured gasoline all over my car while it was sitting in the Neptune parking lot, and the threats escalated to a message that said, "Have you decided how you want to DIE yet?"

    The paper did not track down which computer -- the sender was using our self-contained, internal message system, and a generic user name to send the threats -- and the case remains unsolved to this day.

    As someone else noted above, the comment made by the poster, especially the part "I decided not to use it," is all the threat there needs to be. My husband still works at the APP, and a comment like that is terrifying to me.

    Unless you have lived with that kind of threat, you have no idea what that kind of thing can do to your life and the life of your family.

    For those of you blasting Jim for being responsible, you are idiots. You are putting your own selfishness above public safety. We live in a world where our elementary schools are locked down when a 5-year-old brings a toy gun to school, where our colleges have an alert system in case there's a problem. Don't be naive and think it cannot happen where you are or to you. It almost happened to me. And given the high level of stress people are feeling, you are fools to think a comment like that is an idle threat.

    Jim, you did the right thing. I only wish such due dilligence had been exercised in my situation.

  53. Yes, Jim did the right thing. It's his blog -- he did the responsible thing.

    The anti-Jim comments today are almost certainly from supervisors who would prefer that Jim pack up his tent and silence the blog. Don't do it, man. You're providing a valuable service.

    As for some of my fellow commenters, cool down. Hate and vitriol hurt the person expressing them as much as the person receiving them.

  54. 10:15 thank you for putting into words my thoughts regarding sleepless in NJ's post.
    Happy Holidays!

    Sleeping well in NJ

  55. Jim - You did the right thing. Posting "I brought a gun to work today" in this climate, on a blog like this, was monumentally stupid, and no one can do that and expect to have his or her privacy protected, sorry.

  56. I can't believe all of you who are condemming Jim for his actions. Here we are in the media, many of you must remember writing stories on the folks who went postal after being let go at a company. In this era we need security because there are some scary people out there just ready to snap.

  57. Jim,
    Even if our information had to be given by google to the FBI because of a threat like that, be it someone blowing off steam or he/she could have been serious, I am glad you acted in the manor you did. All of us on the blog could have lost our jobs (which I don't think would happen because of that) but people could have been injured or died. I hope if anything like that ever happens again, you do the same. You may have saved some lives. Even if it was a joke, the poster needs some serious therapy.

    God Bless you!

  58. This blog is dead. Jim answer the question:


    You have a lot of defenders here, but it looks like the postings are already down as people are now scared of corporate monitoring.

  59. 11:54, how do you know he waited?

    You are making an assumption there.

  60. To those freaking out over Jim taking this threat seriously and doing the responsible thing---do you still not understand that your privacy was and continues to remain protected??? To those of you that have accessed this blog while at work...well...DUH-that's not too bright now is it?
    I dunno-honestly, I am willing to bet that some of our Corp folks are posting just to have a little fun because this blog has certainly gotten their panties twisted. JMHO

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  61. 11:54, to follow up (this is 11:56):

    What, exactly, would your solution have been? You say this blog is dead, but I don't see people stopping posting.

    Gannett cannot subpoena Google for the IP addresses without cause. People's complaints and memos posted by those who received them aren't reason enough for the FBI to care enough to go that route.

    If people are scared of Corporate monitoring, they ought to be more worried about the kinds of stuff they send in emails. If Corporate really, really wanted to fire people for reading the blog, they'd have done it.

    And they would have a public relations disaster on their hands.

  62. I work at a Gannett newspaper. I’m in the IT department and I’ve had to deal with reviewing computer logs before. Below is some important information everyone should understand.

    Everyone should review the Gannett security policies. They can be found on the company Intranet at http://gannett.gci/infotech/security. Use the "List of All Policies" link. Many of the policies don't relate to typical employees but there are some important ones you should read. The first and most important is the "Acceptable Use Policy". It explicitly states that the use of Gannett systems is done without the expectation of privacy. This means that Gannett can look at what web sites you are going to on company computers.

    The policy also prohibits certain activities:

    Company electronic communications systems must not be used to send or gain access to information inappropriate to the business environment, personal or group communications of causes or opinions, non-business related personal weblogs, personal mass mailings, chain letters, similar misuse, or matters not connected to the company business.

    Transmission of Gannett business data to external sources without proper authorization.

    Under no circumstances is an employee of Gannett authorized to engage in any activity that is illegal under local, state, federal or international law while utilizing Gannett-owned resources.

    See the policy for full details.

    It is possible for Gannett to review your computer to determine where and how many times you go to a website. If you are using a company computer, your IP address and your user name is logged each time you go to a website. It is also possible to review email records. Numerous employees have lost their jobs because they were going places or doing things that they should not have done at Gannett and at many other companies.

    Don’t be stupid by using your work computer to do stupid things. Go home and use your own computer. But be aware that every site that you go to from home is being logged by someone as well. Certainly your ISP but more than likely every web site you hit is logging you IP address and keeping it for some time. Google and this incident is just one example where it is possible and it can happen that you will be tracked down if you are doing illegal things.

  63. On Wednesday 11/19 at 11:02am the blogger writes...

    "I brought a gun to work but decided not to use it".

    Three days on Saturday 11/22 at 4:42pm later Jim decides to write on his blog, in this posting...

    "For the record: I do not advocate violence of any kind in Gannett workplaces. The layoffs now taking place are tragic, and emotions are understandably running high. But that's not an excuse for even joking about taking extreme steps."

    Jim then stated this morning (Wednesday 11/26)on his post...

    "To cut to the chase, after considering several options, I grew concerned enough to e-mail Gannett's chief spokeswoman, Tara Connell on Saturday. I told her I needed to draw the company's attention to a comment, which I included with my note.

    Clearly, Jim let Gannett know about this "gun" comment AND his comment after 4:42pm on Saturday (over three days had gone by)!!!


    Jim is no hero. He is a confused blog owner that should better manage this blog and stop creating hysteria and making stories up.

    You are all falling into his trap. Pathetic.

    The blog is dead!!!

    Answer the question Jim!!!

  64. 12:52, I still don't see you offering any suggestion of how YOU would have handled the situation.

    And what stories has he made up, exactly? The August layoff? The layoff coming next week?

    Please. Enlighten us since you seem to be God.

  65. Good question, 12:52 pm. But you've made an incorrect assumption about the timeline.

    The original comment was posted on Wednesday morning -- but I do not recall reading it that day; as I said, it was one of more than 200 reader-posted comments that day alone. I may have read the comment for the first time on Thursday or Friday; to be honest, I just can't remember.

    In any case, as I've written, I considered several options after reading the comment -- but ultimately grew concerned enough that I decided to make sure the company knew about it.

    And that's all I did: Draw the company's attention to a comment. I had no other role in what happened after that -- nor was I offered one.

  66. Re: 12:52pm
    Judging by your ire, the only thing in danger of being dead is you ... from apoplexy. So take a second, breathe deep, and explain what is the trap that the diabolical Jim Hopkins is trying to ensnare us witless blog readers?

    And as somebody who has a couple blogs, I can tell you that sometimes I don't read every comment, or life gets in the way and I don't visit every item, for a few days. So not seeing a comment for 3 days, or until another poster points it out to me, is not unusual. And it's certainly not indicative of some nefarious plot on the part of the blog owner.

    Finally, what is the root cause of your anger here? If reading this blog causes you so much distress, then just say no.

  67. Question???
    When you notify corporate of threatening and libelous posts on your forum sites, does the attorney contact the authorities? Are those kinds of threats handled quickly like this one was?

  68. Man, when I read the first 8 or so replies to this post in the early a.m., I had NO idea that it'd turn into a "bash Jim" hate-fest for some posters.

    Jim did the right thing. How do you know that GCI hadn't already seen the comment and were investigating on their own? They have just as much access to reading comments here as anyone else.

    Don't let the bastards get you down, Jim.

  69. Jim YOU SUCK!!!

  70. Dammit sparky, shush.

  71. Kudos Jim!
    You were placed in a difficult position and you took appropriate action.

    Gannett and their actions bring out the worst in people. I'm sure most of us could use major psychological counseling due to Gannett.

    We can't let GCI destroy us or our families, but physical threats are certainly off limits...lets all act like adults.

    Best Wishes and Happy Thanksgiving to you are in our prayers.

  72. 1:15, you are right it was very early in the a.m. I'm guessing it was a lot of Gannett higher ups that can't sleep at night for some strange reason.

  73. @11:54, learn some math! Numbers are not down today, 74 0n this thread alone and it is only 1:40 p.m.

  74. @7:20 Uzi=automatic. Thanks for playing.

  75. Jim is a rat!

    This blog is goin, going, gone goodbye!!!
    Corporate is now looking at ever email, evey website and everyone's behavior.

    Thanks Jim. You could have just pulled down the posting, but instead you kept it up. Bad job Jim.

  76. Does anyone notice the Jim Hopkis talking point here?

    "Jim did the right thing..."

    Come on journalists, can't you be more original?

    Tell us how scared shit you are for your jobs now that corporate is going to start looking at your computer and that you might be laid off next week!

    Jim created this hysteria with his negative blogging.

  77. 5:59 pm: It occurred to me that the comment was evidence of a possible crime. I did not want to be accused of destroying such evidence.

    In any case, deleting the comment would not delete the individual. He would still have been out there. I was not in a position to judge whether he was serious or pulling a prank. I did not want anyone to get hurt.

  78. I think that Jim was correct in his actions on this manner. When we post on this blog, which is provided as a courtesy by Jim, we all have to be responsible on what we say or post. We are only guaranteed anonymity from each other but not from Big Brother. Jim acted on something that concerned him strongly, believing that that post was a warning sign. And warning signs shouldn’t go unnoticed or ignored. And employee violence in the workplace is not as uncommon as you think with a projected upswing in workplace violence, fueled by industry layoffs and the general malaise of the economy.
    Where do you all think the delightful phrase, "Going Postal" came from? Postal workers, stressed out from work and personal problems, showing up to work with AK's and shooting their co-workers and bystanders. The danger of a threat, even one not acted upon, is very real.
    Kudos Jim.
    Besides, I really didn't want to see you get shipped to Gitmo. Sparky would be heartbroken and we would miss you. :)

  79. 6:04 pm: I hope you can sleep at night. Your cowardly effort to scare already frightened employees is disgraceful. I hope you AREN'T in management; I'd hate to think anyone like you would be in a leadership position.

  80. 6:04, In a year or two you will lose your job as a Gannett Bully. Good luck finding another journalism job with Gannett on your resume. I guess you can be a lunch room monitor at a local elementary school, you will have a lot of fun yelling at 3rd graders.

  81. @6:04: You obviously posted something earlier today around 6 a.m. but it didn't work, the blog didn't fold and most employees weren't stupid enough to buy the bullshit. Numbers ended up being good today 81 on this thread and 62 on another

  82. Jim created the hype.

    A scary comment was made.

    Jim covered his ass.

    Jim gets praised and criticized

    Kind of like...

    Craig ran Gannett

    Value of Gannett dropped

    Layoffs take place to cover ass

    Craig and Gannett may look better or worse to wall street.

  83. Shout out to 6:04PM
    "Tell us how scared shit you are for your jobs now that corporate is going to start looking at your computer and that you might be laid off next week!"

    Like Gannett wasn't already watching what we do on company time, on company computers. Like anythings changed. Besides, why would you be so DUMB as to use a company computer to do anything not related to work, at work, knowing that they can monitor your system? Well, DUH! You've only proved what a complete dumbass you are.

  84. Shout out to 6:43 PM:
    :) True...True!

  85. Thank you for keeping our safety in mind.

  86. Hey 8:47am,
    Who the hell are you to use MY moniker? That's my handle and I will not have some make some inflammatory remarks about Jim and this blog using my moniker. It’s like ID theft and I'm not happy with you! Get your own handle and post your own comments under it. Don't use mine!
    - Sleepless in NJ (the real & original)

  87. 6:04, if you don't think your paper hasn't been watching everything you do, you have your head so deep in the sand you're looking at China.

    Jim hasn't failed. Deleting the comment doesn't delete the intent. And if you couldn't read intent there, you're just plain stupid.

    Then again, perhaps you're the jackass who posted it in the first place.

  88. To All Fellow Gannettiods,
    Have a good holiday and I hope to see you on the other side.
    Happy Thanksgiving! And Good Luck!
    And to those who don't make it to the other side, remember - You didn't fail the company, the company has failed you!
    God Bless All. Again - Happy Thanksgiving and Good Luck!

  89. My critics periodically like to predict the end of this blog. And they continue to be wrong. Indeed, here's what happened the first time; this was after the annual shareholders meeting, at the end of April.

    During the 30 days before that event, Gannett Blog had 7,605 unique visitors, paying 35,181 visits, and racking up 65,553 page views.

    Fast forward to today, and here's what traffic looked like over the past 30 days: 32,037 uniques; 143,962 visits, and 269,458 page views.

    If that's a collapse in traffic, I'll take it.

  90. Keep it going, Jim. You did the right thing. As soon as I set up a PayPal account over the weekend, I'm sending a couple bucks.

    My old boss blogged from his newsroom computer once he was off the clock. As far as I know, he never got any shit for it. IT has too many other important things to worry about, and the big bosses and HR idiots don't have a clue how to check.

  91. Jim Hopkins did exactly the right thing. In fact, it was the only thing he could do.

    Think about it. What if Jim did nothing and two days later there was a headline that some Gannett worker had gone ballistic and taken out three employees?

    And an investigation reveals the nut had issued a pretty clear warning on a watchdog blogsite a few days before?

    How would we ALL feel?

    These kinds of incidents are sad but not worth breaking the anonymity of the Web?

    Sorry, I don't think so.

    I totally understand the free Web movement and the dangers of anyone looking in, for any reason. But there are exceptions.

    This was a VERY unique episode and does not mean the company therefore can now get Google to get all our names and find out what we are posting.

    This was about a workplace threat. Jim acted nobly and responsibly. Good for him.

    For those worried that his actions now make it too scary for you to complain about the long lunches your colleagues in other departments are taking, well, we'll miss you.

    For those who believe this blog, this company, and each and every newsroom is a community where we look out for one another, we all owe Jim great thanks for his courage, wisdom and just plain common sense.

  92. Jim, you did the right thing, as others have said. Thank you for making a tough but responsible decision.

    Those of you who are telling yourself that Jim somehow has become a tool of oppression simply are not paying attention, or are failing to understand the facts.

    If Jim had done nothing and someone at GCI had noticed the comment, the end result would have been EXACTLY the same.

    Jim gave away no confidences but only raised the red flag over a potentially dangerous threat, the company did NOT attempt to find the commenter on its own, the FBI presented a legitimate law-enforcement request to Google, and Google answered appropriately.

    How does that translate into a sell-out? Please let go of your paranoid fantasies. They are not helping you.

    That also applies to those who believe your site's IT people are routinely combing your computer records for gotcha material. They don't have time, they don't care, and the bosses who might care for the most part have way too much going on to pursue fruitless Captain Queeg vendettas.

    Don't use company computers for non-business purposes, period. That's the one and only precaution you need to take.

    And, as a general principal, do not make stupid-ass violent threats, even the veiled variety. Every, anywhere.

  93. I'm curious, Jim - Did Tara or Kurt or anyone else from corporate thank you for bringing your concerns to their attention? (What I would really like to know is if they were already aware of the statement. You just know some intern in McLean is responsible for reading the blog every day.)

    To the poster/posters who predict that this blog is dying/dead: Thanks for making me laugh out loud every time I read one of your comments. I would explain to you how blogs work (real blogs, not newspaper web site blog analogs), but then you might not make me laugh every day.

  94. 11/26/2008 10:15 AM
    Please let it be known that the person who posted at 8:47am today slamming Jim and the blog & other bloggers was not I. (-Sleepless in NJ) That person used my moniker that I have been using for the paset 2 weeks. And yes I have donated to the blog and more that $5! That person is rude and I am not.
    - Sleepless in NJ (the real & original)

  95. 9:07 pm: Tara and Kurt were gracious in their thanks. And I appreciated their speedy resolution of this sorry affair. If I had tried calling the law -- and which branch? which jurisdiction? -- I'd be lucky to get a call back, much less that kind of action.

  96. Here's where I think most people are unintentionally warping this issue: The post in question was not a threat. It may have been stupid, and it wasn't close to funny, but it was not a threat.

    Unless I missed something, it read: "I brought a gun to work but decided not to use it."

    Key word is "brought." Key tense is past. I find it hard to understand how anyone could mistake a poor and unoriginal attempt at humor for a threat.

    I've become a very frequent visitor to this blog, and that won't change. For all of the spineless verbal attacks that appear as comments, we've learned at least a handful of facts here first that we didn't find closer to home.

    I know Jim has good intentions. I'm sure there was a dose of concern about liability in his decision to contact Gannett's corporate headquarters. But I think we've lost our ability to detect bullshit. Say all you want about safety and security, but first please understand the difference between present, past and future tenses.

    Aren't we in the business of communication?

  97. @9:53 - you are an idiot. in stating that they decided not to use it implied original intent to use it. any reasonable person would see that in the comment. not taking action once the comment came to light would have been negligent based on previous examples where prior intent was stated but ignored.

  98. So, because someone else at some point stated and acted upon a criminal impulse, anyone who states that he or she had the capability to act and decided not to ... is potentially criminal?

    That's convoluted and false. No action was necessary. Jim chose to act, and things ended well. That's a good thing.

    But let's not forget that the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- at the behest of a major corporation, which was notified by Jim -- either forced by subpoena or coerced Google, among the most powerful enterprises on Earth, to identify an anonymous poster to a blog.

    And, no, the classy little remark from that brilliant individual wasn't threatening. If he or she had written of an intent to take a weapon to an office, you would have had something.

    Toss around "negligent" and "prior intent" all you like, but that man or woman wrote nothing that remotely indicated an immediate intent to commit a crime.

  99. 10:52, you are right on target. Implied intent is what matters.

    I believe the Secret Service acts on implied intent, too.

  100. 11:36, what world are you living in?

    Sorry to inform you, but if I overheard a co-worker saying they brought a gun to work and decided not to use it, my first call would be to the cops. My second call would be to HR.

    And those calls would be made as I was getting the hell out of the building.

  101. You're equating an apparently private conversation at an office to a blog's comment roll, where there's not so much conversation as there is pointless, hit-or-miss insults and hyperboles.

    There is a difference.

  102. 11:53 I'll assume you are also 11:36 and 9:53 - you are still an idiot.

  103. Brilliant!

    (I'm 11:59, by the way.)

  104. 11;53, I disagree. Otherwise the Bush administration wouldn't flip out over every mere mention of something that might possibly sound like a terrorist plot.

  105. Wow, lots of interesting analysis.

    One thing not overanalyzed, yet, is the successful interaction between Jim and Gannett on this -- whether or not one agrees it needed investigation.

    I'm a comment moderator at a Gannett paper. We all have print and reporting duties too and are told moderating takes a back seat.

    But I hope the Gannett admins lurking here, while basking in that positive interaction, see this demonstrates the serious responsibility of moderating comments on our newspaper sites. It takes only one thoughtless instant for something like this to be posted, and it takes only one person to read it for it to have become a public communication, even if it had been subsequently deleted.

    As I recall, several posts for hours discussed the original post, some people worried and some not. It's not so easy to delete a problem post and also all the remnants, some of which included thoughts both related and unrelated to the gun post. Jim might have interacted with the poster online to see if he was serious, but I seem to recall others did, without reply.

    You can't put the genie back in the bottle.

    As long as the FBI didn't compromise the ID of the source after it determined the post was harmless, I don't see what the fuss is about.

  106. I'd just like to point out two things. Just ask Louisville about what can happen when a gun is mixed with a disgruntled or mentally ill employee. If I remember there were 17 dead and wounded. Also if you are having problems sleeping, see your MD and get some Ambien or Lunesta. Sleep deprivation only makes all of this worse. Been there and sone that.

  107. Question for 12:12 AM and other moderators.

    Sounds like Jim had a successful and speedy experience that brought attention and a resolution to that threatening post. What's been your experience with corporate and officials when you reported threatening Gannett forum comments? Do you report or just delete?

  108. Answer to 12:35 p.m.

    Good question. I recall two that I'd call death threats. The first was received with shrugs and the usual admonition not to delete anything that doesn't specifically violated Terms of Service. The second time I deleted it immediately and didn't tell superiors; I doubt the poster could have acted on it. I don't think our top newsrooms editors fully comprehend the dynamics and pathologies of community conversations. They are treated a shiny new toy that's perfect as it is, but there are a number of ethical issues involved that we should be discussing.

    I'd rather not get into specifics that would identify me, but there is talk about assigning moderating to clerks. IMHO, it's important that the incoming social traffic be moderated by experienced editors, not just for potential legal issues but also because we get a lot of news tips and corrections to make us more accurate by routing pertinent comments to reporters and editors.

    On another note, does anyone really think bosses would retaliate against us for reading or commenting here? Most of us have nothing bad to say. We just want to improve our collective work and make our company more competitive. I hope I'm not being naive to think my boss wouldn't care if I comment here on my own time and my own computer.

  109. 1:07 am raises an excellent point: Comments represent the opinions of readers with strong feelings. They are also often from reporters and editors, who are more comfortable writing out their opinions. Finally, on a good recent day, we might get 100 to 150 comments -- but that's from 4,000 to 5,000 visits. Bottom line: Most people visit to read; they rarely comment.

  110. Thanks 1:07 AM
    So, sounds like Gannett has no formal policy for handling threatening forum comments??

    I hope the company follows Jim's lead and starts taking comments just a little bit more seriously.

  111. A reader sent the following in an e-mai; with their permission, I'm posting it below:

    You were absolutely correct to alert Gannett. Threats of violence are not funny. Wouldn't one of those complaining be surprised and relieved if they happened to learn that the threat was serious, and the author was a co-worker in their newsroom. This would look different to them then.

    This incident, though, highlights the difference between you and the Gannett folks. In spite of your clear dislike of the company, you did the right thing. Unless someone has officially thanked you, they have shown themselves, again, for what they are.

    You can never go wrong by doing the right thing.

  112. I monitor comments as part of my job. Most of the time supposed threats are just somebody blowing off steam. Once my mom, who couldn't do anything to anybody, absurdly posted that she thought a president should be shot. I think a quick deletion is fine in most cases. Once we got a threat that we cooperated with police about -- but it was very specific as to the person and the place where he could be found.

  113. The comment was posted on Wednesday and you finally decided to say something about it FOUR DAYS LATER?
    And now you're taking pats on the back for being responsible. That's wonderful.
    I guess this is one way to drive reader traffic since the donation thing didn't work out for you.
    -- Michel

  114. 11:27 am: First, you have made an incorrect assumption -- that I saw the comment the day it was posted, a Wednesday. I did not. It was one of more than 200 comments posted that day, and I did not see it until later. (It might have been Thursday or Friday.)

    Second, your reference to my "taking pats on the back" suggests I was looking for compliments when I posted about the incident. I was not; indeed, I didn't want to even write about the case immediately, because I feared it would inject more uncertainty (the possible presence of guns) in already stressed-out workplaces.

    Ultimately, though, I was forced to post when I did because some of my readers began speculating about the matter.

    To repeat: My No. 1 concern was and is the security of Gannett employees.

  115. That's irrelevant, but thanks for clarifying. Now I have my facts: You saw the comment Thursday or Friday (though why you can't remember an event so significant it merited a call to the FBI is beyond me) and were so concerned about the security of Gannett employees that you waited one day or two days to sound the alarm?
    Sweet Jesus, I hope you're never concerned for me ...

  116. 1:02 pm: I'm sorry you're disappointed. It was a tough call, and I've been beaten up for not moving aggressively enough -- and for moving too aggressively.

  117. I'm not disappointed; I'm disgusted.
    I can't fathom the waffling it takes to make a decision to let someone know they may be in danger.

  118. 1:50 pm: What do you say to those who ripped into me because they said I should have simply deleted the comment, and never brought it to anyone's attentio? Also, does Corporate bear any responsibility for not acting before I did?

  119. Those people are the same fools who don't want the coffin photos of dead soldiers shown because it's damaging to morale, or think the media shouldn't ask vice presidential candidates tough questions about their news-reading habits.
    Gannett Company bears responsibility if the bosses saw the comment and did nothing about it, sure. But it's not their Web site, it's your Web site. In the end, you can only assume that you're the only one monitoring these things. And if you were frightened enough to raise the alarm on Saturday, what changed your mind from Thursday? And why can't you remember whether you saw the comment on Thursday or Friday?
    - Michel


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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