Earlier this month, military blogger Gina DiNicolo poked fun at the annual Rim of the Pacific exercise, in which thousands of sailors and Marines participate in 38 days of nation building and joint operations off the coast of Hawaii.
As Military Times colleague Phil Ewing pointed out on ScoopDeck, it was a “broadside,” one in which she mocked RIMPAC as “SNOOZEPAC” and called the action “anything but exciting.”
A key section of her post, up on the Military Officers Association of America blog, Inside the Headquarters:
Despite the size, locale and agenda, these games seem anything but exciting. Take away the French, and really, what’s left? SNOOZEPAC is 38 days of too many visitors gorging themselves on foreign and U.S. naval delicacies. Air assets become personal taxis transporting their fares from vessel to vessel. (Maybe that’s how it got its rep as the world’s largest floating cocktail party.)
Her analysis may or may not have merit, but there’s another key detail: DiNicolo, a medically retired Marine captain, was in Hawaii for RIMPAC. Working for the Marine Corps. As a civilian public affairs representative.
The blog post subsequently got her dumped from her job doing public affairs work for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, DiNicolo said last week in a phone interview. She returned home to Virginia, and will no longer be at the lab, based at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. She had worked 40 hours per week for them as a contractor.
DiNicolo, a former Marine Corps public affairs officer, said she believes her work for the Corps and MOAA should be considered separately. She did her job for the lab well, and wrote factually accurate, pointed criticism on the blog, outside of her work with the Corps, she said.
“It’s unfortunate. I think we have a difference in philosophy,” she said. “I think you have a good story, you tell the story. And if you have a marginal story, you tell the story and the good points come out.”
The Corps wouldn’t say much about the incident. In a prepared statement, Marine officials released the following statement:
The contractor was hired to provide public affairs support to the Quantico-based Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and its Enhanced Company Operations Limited Objective 4 experiment conducted during RIMPAC 2010. An employment action sending the individual home was initiated, because of the contractor’s inability to stay on task and resulting conflict of interest.
That’s a bit cryptic, but if “inability to stay on task” means “openly ridiculing the same event for which you’re facilitating media coverage,” I suppose it counts.
Reached for additional comment, DiNicolo says it simply isn’t true that she couldn’t do her job with the Corps. Her e-mailed response, in part:
I left because Third Fleet was uncomfortable with a member of media or blogging community working in with his PAOs. Fair enough. There is your conflict, as they may see it. Though I thought it an ideal opportunity to get into the field and write some stories, it was pretty clear the lab personnel wanted me gone.
… The hard part in their minds, I think, is reconciling my performance as reasonably talented lab PAO 12 hours a day with this blog pariah for Inside the Headquarters by night… As we discussed, I write what I think readers will find interesting. RIMPAC is not interesting in its natural form. At least I don’t find it interesting, and I rarely write straight news in the blog. I think the RIMPAC blog entry was a solid, accurate piece. It informed, entertained, pointed out a possible shortcoming but highlighted RIMPAC’s strengths. Gee, I’d be happy with that coverage.
Call me crazy, but I’m just not seeing that. At this point, there is nearly a decade of examples that illustrate that running your mouth about your employer on a blog can get you fired. Take this 2005 USA Today piece, which covers the termination of employees at Wells Fargo, Google and other corporations. Or this blog post, which covers the 2008 firing of a Washington Post reporter who posted drunk photographs of himself online and called the Post a “dying medium” on the football blog Kissing Suzy Kolber.
There’s even a word for it: “Dooced.”
Yep: DiNicolo just got dooced.
UPDATE, 10:20 A.M.: ScoopDeck ninja Phil Ewing of Navy Times — the journalist who first drew attention to DiNicolo’s post — weighs in on the mini-scandal here.