Journalists Who Tweet About Being Laid Off: Necessary or Just Awkward?

We’ve talked a lot on the blog about how Twitter for journalists can be a blessing and a curse.

It can be used for finding sources, breaking news and making connections regarding potential work — but for announcing you’ve been laid off?

Laurie Muchnick, who was the highly-respected books editor at Bloomberg up until Monday, tweeted this to her nearly 6,000 followers:

“Not sure how to put this so here goes: Bloomberg is cutting arts coverage, including books, so today was my last day there.”

Later in the day, the New York Times reported the employee cutbacks in the arts and sports departments, adding that Bloomberg plans to focus more on its finance and government beats instead.

Muchnick, who left Newsday for Bloomberg in 2007, is also the National Book Critics Circle president and received dozens of encouraging messages from colleagues and admirers of her work as a result of her tweet, but the whole situation got me thinking: What are best practices for something like that? With the constant state of flux the journalism industry is encountering, any one of us could find ourselves in Muchnick’s position.

So if you are faced with it, is it best to just fly under the radar social media-wise if you’ve been asked to leave the newsroom? Or, is it smarter to be up front about your misfortune and see what might come of it? If you have a decent Twitter following, it could prove beneficial to let your followers know you’re out of work. On the other hand, it would take some humility to let the world know “Hey, my employer didn’t value me enough to keep me around.” Certainly not that person’s fault that they were undervalued, or simply suffering the residual effects of a news company’s business decision, but it’s worth considering whether you can deal with the possible consequences of making public that you’re officially unemployed — and looking.

Rob Hart was one of the 28 full-time photographers who was laid off from the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this year and was immediately forthright about the position he had lost online. Using social media and a blog to document the travails of unemployment, Hart was never shy about getting canned.

And after media reporter Brian Stelter announced his move to CNN from the NYT last week, Poynter put together a nice roundup of several big-time journalists who have taken to Twitter to announce their new opportunities, but all of them chose to leave their old positions, so the circumstances are totally different.

One other item of note: I noticed that on Bloomberg’s social media policy, they ask that reporters “assume internal Bloomberg discussions and meetings are “off-the-record” unless otherwise stated” and generally ascribe to an “Ask first, tweet later” model. Even though Muchnick is no longer with Bloomberg, is it in good taste to reveal her own layoff on social media before the company could announce their plans? Just food for thought; nothing more.

What do you think? Is it appropriate to share such intimate details — your employment status — with the Twitterverse, or, in this day and age of shameless self-promotion for journalists, is it just a necessary evil?