Sunday, November 29, 2009

A single vulgar word in comment cost a man his job

It all started with Friday’s edition of Talk of the Day, a regular blog on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s website, Talk of the Day is exactly that. A conversation around the water-cooler topic of the day. Friday’s edition is often a little lighter. Last week, it was about the strangest things you’ve ever eaten, loosely pegged on a story about deer meat.
By mid-morning, a number of folks had commented about their experiences with Bird’s Nest Soup, octopus, cow brains and rattlesnake. Then, while I was in our 10 a.m. news meeting, someone posted in reply a single word, a vulgar expression for a part of a woman’s anatomy. It was there only a minute before a colleague deleted it.
A few minutes later, the same guy posted the same single-word comment again. I deleted it, but noticed in the WordPress e-mail alert that his comment had come from an IP address at a local school. So I called the school. They were happy to have me forward the e-mail, though I wasn’t sure what they’d be able to do with the meager information it included.
About six hours later, I heard from the school’s headmaster. The school’s IT director took a shine to the challenge. Long story short: Using the time-frame of the comments, our website location and the IP addresses in the WordPress e-mail, he tracked it back to a specific computer. The headmaster confronted the employee, who resigned on the spot.
I’m not identifying the guy who posted the comment because, obviously, I don’t know who it was. I’m not identifying the school because, frankly, it’s not important to the story and I have no interest in embarrassing the people there.

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