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Rachel Allen
Case Study: Whose Facebook Page is It Anyway?
Executive Summary: In todays digital era, social media has trickled into the world of mass
media and made itself a staple in the industry. Accordingly, mass media professionals have also
joined this necessary world of social sharing via the internet both in personal and professional
realms. With the influx of media professionals simultaneously managing their personal and
professional accounts, also comes the potential for conflict. Barrett Tryon, former social media
contributor to the Gazette, is living proof that conflicting loyalties between personal and
professional social media exists specifically when he shared a news story via his personal
Facebook account that featured his employer as the subject. The content of the news story
speculated that the Gazette had been bought out by a Boston investment group and raised the
eyebrows of management for issues of conflicting loyalties (Patterson & Wilkins, 2005, p.91).
1. The Three Most Important Facts
The first most important fact is that Barrett Tryon posted a link to a LA Times article on
his personal Facebook account that announced Freedom Communications Holding Inc.s (parent
company to the Gazette) sale of seven newspapers to a Boston investment group, which included
his employer, the Gazette. This is important because in the opinion of Freedom Communications,
Tryon was directly disclosing private information on a social media platform that although was
personal had the potential to reach many followers. They feared that the release of this
information could potentially hurt the reputation of the company.
Another noteworthy fact is that Barrett Tryon was placed on an involuntary
administrative leave by Freedom Communications on the premise that his post was a violation of
their social media policy and he refused to remove it. Although, Tryon maintained that he was

justified in his post since it was on his personal account and it voiced no opinion. This is
important because this is the direct source of loyalty conflict that appears in this case study. By
Freedom Communications actions, we are forced to analyze if they were justified in placing an
employee on involuntary administrative leave because of the content posted to his personal
social media account.
The final key fact is that after the National Labor Relations Board issued a memo stating
several social media policy provisions illegal; some of which included provisions that the
Gazette was imposing on Tryons Facebook post, the Gazette offered Tryon reinstatement. This
is an important fact because it lends credible evidence to the fact that Freedom Communications
engaged in a conflict of loyalties with their employee and did not have the right to place Tryon
on administrative leave because of the content posted on his personal social media accounts.
2. Three Facts That Would Be Good To Know
Was the article the LA times published true?
Considering the reaction of Tryons boss, Carmen Boles and the Human Resources department at
Freedom Communications Inc., it seemed as if the LA Times article was true and they didnt wish
to encourage any sort of press exposure about it. A similar article was published just a month
later by the OC Register about the sale, confirming what the LA times had published earlier was
in fact true. Milbourn (2012) found the following:
Freedom Communications Inc. in Irvine, parent of The Orange County Register, today
completed the sale of the paper and six other remaining properties to 2100 Trust LLC, an
investment group headed by a Massachusetts businessman. The other Freedom properties
include The Gazette in Colorado Springs, The Sun in Yuma, Ariz., and four California

papers, the Barstow Dispatch, Appeal-Democrat in Marysville, The Porterville Recorder


and the Daily Press in Victorville. (para.1-2)
Why did the Gazette cancel the HR meeting with Tryon when he requested he have a lawyer
present?
The cancellation of Tryons HR meeting is the event that ultimately led up to Freedom
Communications Inc.s decision to place Tryon on administrative leave, escalating the Facebook
case. Crawfords (2012) interview with Tryon found the following:
I got back [to Freedom's HR department] this morning. I called and said, Im supposed
to have an 11:30 a.m. meeting with Carmen [Boles]. And shes like, 'Yeah, thats been
cancelled,'" says Tryon. "And then she said, You know, Id really like to talk to you
Carmen will not be there just to discuss, you know, kind of what happened and go
from there. And I said, Thats fine, my attorney will be with me. And she said, Well,
unfortunately since our attorney is not in town, [and] this is a personnel issue, its a little
unfair, its one-sided if our attorneys arent there to discuss it. (para. 2)
Freedom Communications Inc.s reason for cancelling Tryons meeting calls for a questioning of
ethics. I do not believe they were justified in cancelling Tryons meeting.
Did Tryon benefit at all from the controversy?
Aside from the tremendous support from the media and the public, Tryon received other
incentives as a result of the Facebook controversy and his decision to decline reinstatement to the
Gazette. Tryon stated, You know, honestly, Ive already had job offers; the TV networks are
very interested; Ive already been asked for interviews (Crawford, 2012, para. 8). Tryons
willingness to stick to his principles ended up paying off for him and the Gazettes decision to
place him on leave was not the last of his journalism career.

3. Ethical Dilemma
The ethical dilemma in this case is one of a conflict of interest. Specifically, whether or
not news organizations are justified in expecting reporters to uphold their social media policy
standards on personal social media accounts and how clear those policies are made to employees.
From the perspective of a news organization, any social media content posted by a reporter that
violates their social media policy, even if it is under a personal account could still reflect the
company because the reporter is already affiliated with the organization. However, from the
perspective of the reporter, his or her personal social media accounts should not interfere with
the professional standards put in place by their employer and under the First Amendment, they
are protected in their right to share whatever content they please under a personal account.
Further, employees should not be prohibited to share news stories that involve their employer
and more specifically, stories that have no opinion expressed by the content sharer.

4. Moral Agents, Stakeholders and their Role-Related Responsibilities


Moral Agent: Tryons Boss, Carmen Boles (As an employee of Freedom Communications Inc.,
to directly manage Tryon, to ensure content is ethical, to ensure content is executed ethically
through all communication channels, to uphold Freedom Communications company policies and
standards and to ensure the overall brand reputation of Freedom Communications Inc.)
Moral Agent: Barrett Tryon (As an online media reporter, to provide news to the public, to
provide the best coverage via social media, to draw in excellent site ratings, to keep people
engaged through social media and coming back for information. As an employee to the Gazette
to make the brand look the most reliable to the public and to follow company policies. As a
person to manage personal social media separately from work related social media accounts)

Stakeholder: The public (As fans, to support the Gazette by buying their publications, following
them on social media, viewing their website and choosing them as their number one news
source. As citizens, to seek information about the world around them in order to be well
educated, to constantly stay updated on events through various channels)
Stakeholder: Reporters (As mass media gatekeepers, to report news, to uphold ethical
professional standards, to put forth their best effort, to attract attention to their organization with
fast, reliable and innovative reporting. As people, to manage personal social media separately
from work related social media accounts)
5. Values
Carmen Boles: Obedient, dependent, close-minded, not empathetic, irresponsible, civic-minded,
maximizing harm, underhanded.
Barrett Tryon: Honest, aboveboard, civic-minded, self-controlled, courageous.
The public: Broadminded, self-controlled, independent, civic-minded, unforgiving.
Reporters: Broadminded, intellectual, aboveboard, just, responsible, capable, fair, civic-minded,
helpful.
*Most opposite: independent vs. dependent
6. Loyalties
Carmen Boles: Freedom Communications Inc., employees, clients
Barrett Tryon: Himself, public, fans, followers, Freedom Communications Inc.
The public: Themselves
Reporters: The public, their news organization

*Most opposite: Carmen Boles vs. the public


7. Moral Philosophy
According to Lester, The golden rule, or the ethic of reciprocity, teaches people to love
your neighbor as yourself and to avoid doing what you would blame others for doing (p.1). It
encourages individuals to be fair and humane in their actions and to carry out ethical decisions in
which the individuals actions are consistent to how they would like to be treated in an identical
situation. If an individual can confidently and truthfully say that their decision is one they would
wish upon themselves, then they are consistent with the ethical philosophy of the golden rule.
This philosophy is best fit by Barrett Tryon, as a moral agent. He posted what he thought was an
interesting story that affected him and felt other people who might be affected would also be
interested in the story. Operating on the basis of the golden rule, he was informing other people
of the news, just as he would like to be informed on a story that affected him.
According to Fox (1910), hedonism operates on the belief that feelings of pleasure or
happiness should be the highest and final aim of conduct and those actions which increase the
sum of pleasure are thereby constituted right and what increases pain is wrong. As an egocentric
philosophy, hedonism is characterized by basing decisions or actions on personal motivation and
acting upon decisions based on the present pleasures available and worrying about any
consequences later. Carmen Boles would be the best representation of the hedonism philosophy
in this case study because as a representative of Freedom Communication Inc., she dismissed
ethical treatment of her employee, Tryon and instead favored the organizations unethical wishes.
Boles stayed loyal to her larger employer by enforcing their policy to ultimately fulfill her own
needs and wants; happiness as a respected employee at her company. As a result of her loyalties

she made the choice to unethically demand a provision of her employees right to talk about the
company during their legal matters and betrayed the loyalty she had to her employee.
The goal of the golden mean philosophy is to find the middle ground between two
extreme decisions in order to uncover the most ethical and practical solution during a conflict.
Moore (2003) found the following:
Aristotle's golden mean asserts there must be a balance between two extremes. For
example, if one were to look at the idea of fear and confidence, "cowardice" would be
one extreme and "Rashness" the other. "Courage", the desirable virtue, would be the
golden mean. (para.1)
This philosophy is one of the most useful and ethical of the six philosophies because it
emphasizes the actor and calls for the individual to weigh out their options and make a rational
decision based on the other parties involved and ultimately reach a compromise. I dont believe
any of the stakeholders or moral agents displayed this philosophy, because most decisions made
were very extreme and rash.
The categorical imperative believes that the individual should ideally act so their choices
could be used as universal law as well as treat humanity as an end and not solely as a means.
Kemerling states, The ultimate principle of morality must be a moral law conceived so
abstractly that it is capable of guiding us to the right action in application to every possible set of
circumstances (1997, Categorical Imperative section para. 4). This theory emphasizes the
importance of the action as the source of moral force, rather than solely the person who acts.
Barrett Tryon as a moral agent best represents this philosophy the best because throughout the
case study, he stuck to the principle that he was justified in his Facebook post. Though his
persistence he demonstrated morality through his actions, not solely on his moral character.

According to Patterson & Wilkins (2005), utilitarianism is a philosophy that operates on


the belief that an acts rightness is determined by its contribution to a desirable end (p.11). In
other words, this philosophy calls to take a detailed look at the outcomes before deciding what is
justifiable because the consequences of actions are the deciding factor of whether or not an
action is ethical. Whichever outcome harms the least amount of people is dubbed the most
ethical action and decision and means that in this philosophy harming one person for the benefit
of the larger group is justified. Moral agent, Carmen Boles most identifies with this concept
because her actions were aimed at pleasing loyalties to the corporation she worked for as well as
minimizing possible public reaction. She chose an option in which only one individual would be
most likely dissatisfied versus disappointing the other parties.
The veil of ignorance philosophys main goal aims, To insure impartiality of judgment,
the parties are deprived of all knowledge of their personal characteristics and social and
historical circumstances (Moore, 2003, p. 1). Ultimately, the veil of ignorance seeks to achieve
fairness via equated justice. According to this philosophy, from underneath a veil of ignorance an
individual is able to rid themselves of previous judgments and biases to ensure decision making
stems from a place of equality in which individuals all start out as originals. Reporters as
stakeholders are the most ideal representation of this theory. The job of a reporter is to report on
the news based on facts and information, not based on personal biases. They are responsible for
abandoning their biases at the before they report, otherwise it is considered unethical.
8. Alternatives
Creative: Instead of react negatively to Tryons Facebook post, Freedom Communications Inc.
utilizes the attention gained from the post to then reveal credible information about the story to
audience straight from the source, generating positive attention for the companys openness.

Creative: Freedom Communications Inc. could instead start to directly respond to any negative
social media attention on the internet, even if from their own staff to diffuse possible situations
and directly show they have nothing negative to hide.
Credible: Freedom Communications Inc. could be more direct with its employees. The Gazette
could inform its employees directly about any current public matters regarding the company. If
Tryon was informed directly about the company he worked for, maybe he would not have even
had the need to share a post from another newspaper about the subject.
Credible: Freedom Communications Inc. could have used Tryon as an example of their flawed
social media policy and updated it, warning him in the future that personal social media posts do
have the potential to reflect negatively on the company.
9. What Would You Do?
If I were a media professional involved in this case, I would have consulted the social
media policy to make the most informed decision. I believe that would have been the most
appropriate decision for the situation. By utilizing the golden mean philosophy, I would have
weighed out both extremities of the situation and found that looking into the policy would have
prevented any conflict related to Freedom Communications. Although Freedom
Communications social media policy was not legal in the end and Tryon was justified in his
stance, I admire how he stayed loyal to the principle he thought was right. He still turned down a
reinstatement by the company to prove the point that they should not go about social media
policy the same way.

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10. Bibliography
Crawford, B. (2012, June 14). UPDATE: Tension at Gazette Leads To Ultimatum For One
Employee. Colorado Springs Independent. Retrieved from
http://www.csindy.com/IndyBlog/archives/2012/06/13/tension-at-gazette-leads-toultimatum-for-one-employee
Fox, J. (1910). Hedonism. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Retrieved February 26, 2014 from New Advent:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07187a.htm
Kemerling, G. (1997). Kant: The Moral Order. Retrieved from
http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/5i.htm
Lester, P. (n.d.). Six Ethical Philosophies [Word document]. Retrieved from California State
University at Fullerton Mass Media Ethics Titanium Site: https://moodle-20132014.fullerton.edu/my/
Milbourn, M.A. (2012, July 25). Freedom Communications Closes Sale of the Register. The Oc
Register. Retrieved from http://www.ocregister.com/articles/trust-365495-bankruptcysale.html
Moore G. Aristotle, the Golden Mean and the FFA. Agricultural Education Magazine [serial
online]. March 2003;75(5):8-9. Available from: Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson),
Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 21, 2014.
Patterson, Philip. Wilkins, Lee. (2005). Media Ethics: Issues & Cases. New York: McGraw Hill.