Saturday, July 09, 2005

Blogging and Academic Job Hunting

This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education may provide a good reality check for bloggers, both in Biblioblogdom and elsewhere. Read the whole thing. Here's an excerpt:

Job seekers who are also bloggers may have a tough road ahead, if our committee's experience is any indication.

You may think your blog is a harmless outlet. You may use the faulty logic of the blogger, "Oh, no one will see it anyway." Don't count on it. Even if you take your blog offline while job applications are active, Google and other search engines store cached data of their prior contents. So that cranky rant might still turn up.

The content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself. Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.

Personally, I try not to rant, bitch, moan, talk trash, or get personal on "Ralph." And I try to stay pretty much within the broad topics I've established herein, while still maintaining enough variety to keep myself, my family, and my friends, both lay and professional, interested.

But I must admit that I didn't think about blogging being a barrier to future employment. I think it's a pity that the committee described in the article was suspicious of blogging as such. However, all of us should probably remind ourselves that the dashed-off tripe we ladle into the bitstream is going to be cached and available for reading for a long time. "Every idle word ..." (There's a spiritual lesson here, too.)

Maybe this issue can be taken up at the Biblioblogging session in November at Philadelphia. I'd be interested in hearing what others think in the meantime, especially those with faculty positions. If you were on a search committee, would you check a candidate's blog? If you did, what would you look for?

UPDATE (7/10): Thanks for all your comments, although nobody answered my question.

AKMA responds to the same article here, and Ann Althouse here, and she links to this Metafilter discussion. She also says, "But, for me, blogging is so phenomenally satisfying that I would find the possible career advancement sacrifices worth it." Wow. Spoken like a woman with tenure and an endowed chair.

I suppose the moral of the story is this: If you want to know if a critique of blogging is valid or not, don't ask bloggers.


Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...


Here is my .02 on the issue. I am an academic and a blogger. I have not had any complaints on my blogging but I don't trumpet it either. I teach Hebrew/Aramaic and Hebrew Bible at a small school (ca. 5000 students). I am also a professional archivist at a school of about the same number of students. I do not blog about my job or any of the related activites (unless it is in a general area e.g. how to teach a better Aramaic course). Likewise I believe that schools will generally give the blogger space if he respects their space. All of this to say, if everyone is happy then when you apply for a job can you not point to the cozy relationship you had with your last employer and say "See, I am a good boy, you will not have to worry about me." I have a number of ready academic references lined up if I want to look for jobs elsewhere. They have assured me that they would speak well of my blogging.

Best Regards

Ken said...

As someone who will be looking for work in the near future, I'm certainly aware of this issue--all the more so because I articulate my political views, which are not majority views in the secular academic world, and I enjoy engaging in debate with other bloggers, which could be perceived rather negatively. In fact, I've already had bibliobloggers refer to a blog entry or my style in general as "oft-inciting" and "aggressive", albeit with a wink emoticon. Still, I feel relatively confident that my online activity will not, in the end, compromise my job prospects. Perhaps I'm naive...

Incidentally, the waybackmachine is an Internet archive that stores websites permanently. It is far more significant to this problem than Google cache.

Andrew Criddle said...

The waybackmachine will remove things you regret having published if you ask nicely.

However, unless you are a candidate for SCOTUS or something like that, the probability that people will check you out on waybackmachine, (which has very limited search facilities), seems remote.

Ken said...

Not so remote these days as the article here shows...

Still, I don't think I'd want to work at a university that couldn't handle the views I espouse on my blog... If they are that intolerant, then why would I want to be there working for them?

Bartholomew said...

I've wondered about the same thing, but I figured that if I have to self-censor in order to be an academic then there's probably not much point in trying to get an academic job.

If a blog is purely a personal diary, it is none of the university's business. If a blog deals with a particular area of professional interest, then the university should be pleased to have a member of staff who wants to communicate with a wider audience and is showing themselves to be actively engaged with developments in their subject.

It may be that a poor-quality blog might expose forms of incompetence, but in those cases it's probably just as well that such people don't get hired.

Pilgrim at First and Lake said...

These are the issues that keep me from attaching a name or specific locality to my blog, nor would it occur to me to mention it in a resume or cover-letter -- although I have of course no delusions that what's put online can ever really remain private. (For instance, just a few months ago I had the uncanny sense that a blog I had come across was written by a colleague I knew only in passing -- I turned out to be right ... and unintentionally caused the blogger a fair amount of anxiety! Or, as one of my favorite professors, said: "If students only knew how many blogs professors read!" ;)

My purely subjective sense, I think that there are several outstanding blogs in various professional fields that are paving the way for "blogging" being treated as a positive, creative activity -- perhaps even one expected of prolific academics. I'm thinking here, amongst others, of Jim Davila's blog, the blogs of the NT Gateway, and of course your blog, when it comes to biblical studies ... as well as the blogs of Volokh and Bainbridge in the legal/academic field. At UCLA, for example, a number of law school professors have joined together to create a community blog -- a very public work, an insightful read, and as far as I can tell, no obstacle to academic progress.

I am of course biased -- naturally :) For what it's worth, your readership would like you to keep on blogging.