From time to time, we've told you about the blogging phenomenon. "Blogs" are web logs, or personal websites on the Internet, on which people write about everything from politics to pepper-sauce recipes. Some of these sites are obscure; others get thousands and thousands of "hits," as they're called, from faithful readers -- including other bloggers.
Blogging has been called "personal journalism." But this exercise in freedom of expression can carry a heavy price, as the Chicago Tribune newspaper points out in a story headlined, "Blogs Can Bite."
The messages on these blogs can be inaccurate, unfair, hateful, and hurtful. And they can also cost bloggers their jobs.
The newspaper tells the story of Heather Armstrong of Salt Lake City, Utah. In her blog, called dooce-dot-com, she said some really unflattering things about her boss at the company where she worked. "Her Wretchedness," Ms. Armstrong called the woman, for starters. The company was displeased, to say the least. It fired her.
The same thing has happened to so many people that there's now a name for this situation. Thanks to Ms. Armstrong's unfortunate dooce-dot-com experience, losing your job because of online indiscretions is called "doocing." "Be Ye Not So Stupid," Heather Armstrong has since written on dooce-dot-com.
But stupid, people are. Like the nanny whose blog described her employers' sex lives. Or the magazine editor who wrote about her boss's poorly dyed and straightened hair. Or the people who say nasty things on their blogs about their parents.
Of course there's one difference about Mom and Dad: They can't dooce you!
This is part of VOA's Only in America series of radio essays on events and trends that are peculiarly American. To visit our Only in America home page click here.