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Don't Blog So Close to Me

By Robert MacMillan
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 20, 2005 8:54 AM

There are millions of blogs out there, so many that conventional wisdom says most attract few readers at best.

So it's easy to understand why some bloggers provide commentary and observations that might raise eyebrows at the dinner table, the water cooler -- or the human resources department.

After reading about Michael Gee and a certain "hot," sloe-eyed Sabra, I recommend erring on the side of caution before you hit submit on that blog posting.

Gee, a 17-year-veteran of the Boston Herald who left the paper in the spring, was fired this month from a part-time journalism school position at Boston University after sharing inappropriate thoughts about a student on a blog.

"'Of my six students, one (the smartest, wouldn't you know it?) is incredibly hot,'" Gee wrote, according to the Associated Press reported . "Gee was fired July 13, according to Bob Zelnick, chairman of BU's journalism department. Zelnick said the posting violated the trust essential to the student-teacher relationship. Students 'have to be confident their work will judged impartially' and not on the basis of their looks, he said."

Gee posted his comments on July 5th on the sportsjournalists.com blog. The blog's administrators later removed Gee's posting. But just because his words are gone doesn't mean they haven't been preserved elsewhere... like right here in this column, and over at Boston Sports Media, where blogger David Scott posted them on July 15 so the rest of us could wonder at them: "Gee, Gone. Again": "Today was my first day teaching course 308/722 at the Boston University Dept. of Jounralis (sic). There are six students, most of whom are probably smarter than me, but they DON'T READ THE PAPER!!! Not the Globe, Times, Herald or Wall Street Journal. I can shame them into reading, I guess, but why are they taking the course if they don't like to read. But I digress. Now here's the nub of my issue. Of my six students, one (the smartest, wouldn't you know it?) is incredibly hot. If you've ever been to Israel, she's got the sloe eyes and bitchin' bod of the true Sabra. It was all I could do to remember the other five students. I sense danger, Will Robinson."

Gee's senses were right on. If only he had heeded them.

Scott asked BU about Gee's remarks on July 12th before writing about them. Here's his commentary: "What on earth was Gee thinking, when he made these inappropriate comments? Further, what editor would hire a guy who publicly admits to drooling over his student? Even more perplexing was Gee's response after at least one SJ poster gave this friendly advice: 'Congrats on the gig and the proximity to a hottie, but be careful. Not with her, but with this site. She or your bosses could Google your name and the university at any point and find this thread. ' Even that lucid warning didn't seem to have an effect on Gee's libido or his proud postings: 'Dear Folks: I suppose I should be flattered that many of you think this gorgeous woman who's half my age would consider having sex with me. Which, if I have any news instincts, she won't. My problem is losing my focus when I meet her to-die-for eyes.'"

Holy mackerel! That's some hot journalism action! And boy, does it spread. Gee's burying the lede instead kicked it into high gear in the blogosphere.

He can probably forget freelance opportunities at Ms. magazine where the comments on his actions are less than complimentary.

Editor & Publisher's Joe Strupp made sure that most hiring types at prominent publications will know who Gee is as soon as they receive his e-mail queries. More interesting is Gee's lemons-into-lemonade attitude in the E&P article: "Although Gee declined to comment on the Web posting, he said his layoff included a good severance package, amounting to about 15 months of salary. He also said he was writing freelance articles for the Village Voice, and had been to Thursday night's New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game in Boston for the Voice."

We'll see how long the Voice assignments last. Maybe they can try some kinky postmodern Web special and send him out on a singles prowl where he can play good-cop-bad-cop with Press Notes scribe and Pulitzer Prize winner Sydney Schanberg.

The best blog posting of all on the Gee affair comes from Michael Feldman on his Dowbrigade site. The BU lecturer on foreign law and business provides a visual representation of Gee's feverish imagination, not to mention a few choice comments of his own: "An educational institution that has just condoned a student sex magazine called 'Boink' cannot very well fire a teacher for simply noting the exuberant physical endowments of one of his students, especially as part of an introspective evaluations of the difficulties of his didactic duties. The remark about Sabras, however, was clearly over the line. As regular readers will note, the Dowbrigade also works at a Major Boston University, and over the years we have had our share of 'hot' students, but we would never dream of saying so in a public posting. Other than absolutely necessary meta-leering like the above reference, that is."

Meta-leering? I can't recommend it enough. Doing it online, though? That doesn't sound like such a good idea.

As for David Scott, the man who broke the news on his Scott's Shots blog, he took some heat from readers for not getting Gee's comments before running his initial story. He maintains in an "ombudsblogger" post that he did not "rat Gee out:"

"Some colleagues (and even friends) have asked why I didn't call (or email) Gee first to get his initial comments, before contacting BU? To be honest, I thought he'd already done his talking on the posting. I wanted to know (as a media critic) what BU (and its Communications school, remember) would do about such thing. I wanted their comments and then I would give Gee the 'final' say (which I clearly did, even offering up unlimited space)," Scott wrote. "I was examining an issue... where writers who are empowered by their abilities are also brought down (at varying degrees) by them."

I know it sounds funny when I write this, considering that I didn't speak to a single person involved in this story before I pounded this column out, but just because it's blogging doesn't mean you shouldn't cover your bases.

Especially when the topic is sexy j-school students.

Tunnel Talk

You can link up in the Lincoln and holler in the Holland again thanks to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey which decided that shutting down cell-phone service inside the tunnels wasn't such a good idea after all.

The New York Daily News reported that the service, first cut off after the London attacks on July 7, was restored at the end of the Tuesday rush hour. "PA executive director Kenneth Ringler said full service was reinstated after 'ongoing consultations' with security officials in New York and New Jersey," the Daily News reported.

I reported last week that the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority also shut down phone service inside the Brooklyn-Battery and Queens Midtown tunnels, but turned it back on after determining that it didn't actually receive a request from the New York Police Department to suspend it.

Many drivers also noted that switching off the phone service means preventing people from calling 911 in case of a real emergency. Of course, anyone trying to dial 911 from inside a tunnel using anything other than Verizon Wireless's network is out of luck anyway. Happy driving.

Can You Show Me Where It Hurts?

Here's a strange tale relayed to us by the AP: "The founder of a company that runs answering services for doctors tried to destroy a competitor by hacking into the firm's computer so that patients heard either a busy signal or sexual moaning when they tried to call their physicians, Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro said yesterday."

The hack was part of a series of actions taken by 37-year-old Gerald Martin of Pawling, N.Y., to interfere with his former employer after he founded his own company, Emergency Response Answering Service Inc.

"He had once worked for the targeted company now known as Statcomm but formed the new firm after an 'acrimonious breakup.' The DA said the complaint specifies that for three days in November, Martin 'interfered with the ability of Statcomm to conduct business' by hacking into the computer so that patients heard either a busy signal or 'groaning, moaning in a sexual nature.' He also had a moving company show up at Statcomm with a phony order to pick up six boxes of Statcomm material for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, she said."

Pirro told the AP that one patient in California had to go to an emergency room after failing to reach a doctor because of Martin's alleged actions.

Fine Wines of New Jersey

We thought that might get your attention. The New York Times reported that New Jersey wines have come a long way since Star-Ledger columnist John Foy stuck them with the ultimate loser labels: "Parkway Red and Turnpike White." David Corcoran at the Times food section sampled a good number of Garden State vintages, made from grapes, blueberries and other fine fruits.

The technology angle? See page 3 of the story: "Unlike wineries in other states, those in New Jersey are barred from shipping their product directly to consumers who order by mail or Internet. (A recent Supreme Court decision allowing such shipments to out-of-state consumers applied only to those states that allow in-state shipments.) Nor, winemakers and other experts say, does the state do much to promote its wines."

I guess most of you are going to have to trust the Times on what undoubtedly will remain New Jersey's best-kept secret.

Send links and comments to robertDOTmacmillanATwashingtonpost.com.

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