No Such Thing As Bad Publicity

Finding a 2007 blog post about a condom and a cheeseburger made a friend ask if student blogs should be moved off-domain. My flippant answer was “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

His retort was simple and quick: “Tell that to the catholic church.”

It stung. He had me, I was sure. It’s hard for many Americans not to think of sex abuse when Catholic Church comes to mind, but there are probably two lessons from that:

  1. Suppression of unfavorable news is no longer possible. If you’d rather not see people air your laundry in public, it’s best not to dirty it in the first place. And if you do, it’s best to go public first and ask forgiveness. Fortunately, this openness goes two-ways; most people will forgive stupidity when they know that evidence of their own stupidity is just a few clicks away elsewhere online.
  2. The other lesson may be more ironic: data from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reveals that the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Catholic has been relatively constant since the 1970s, despite the scandal, and the percentage of those Catholics attending Mass has been growing since 2000.

On the face of it, hosting student blogs at a different domain from offers some insulation against embarrassment, but that insulation is limited. Just as the public demands that campuses censure students for their off-campus indiscretions, they will hold the institution accountable for off-domain blather. And in the bargain, the institution also forecloses any opportunity to enjoy the recognition and link love that good writing generates.