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NBC (NSDQ: CMCSA) News is feeling a bit of blog-generated backlash this morning following its decision to terminate an unnamed employee accused of leaking 16-year-old Today footage (view after the jump) in which its anchors struggle to understand what the then-new internet thingy was. But anyone who believes that anything short of taking the offending staffer and drop-kicking him or her off the top of 30 Rock is the right thing to do is hopelessly naive.
The firing was reported by The Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) reporter Rob Pegoraro,
but has yet to be confirmed by NBC. UPDATE: NBC has confirmed the termination.
This isn’t about NBC being over-sensitive to how the network might be perceived. Heck, “Today” smartly had enough of a sense of humor to air the footage on the program and have a laugh over it.
What this is really about is NBC realizing it was employing somebody reckless enough to take its intellectual property without permission and exhibit it on the internet. Working at a media company means respecting a set of rights binding the product. To misunderstand that basic concept is idiocy.
The footage in and of itself may have been perfectly harmless, but that’s irrelevant. This isn’t about what the employee in question did, but about what this person could conceivably do next. The action taken is basically telling the company, “I cannot be trusted.”
All this might sound mighty uptight, but consider how you would look at the situation if you worked alongside this employee at NBC. Picture sending a sensitive e-mail to a co-worker only to see it get leaked.
There’s been comparison in some blogs’ discussion of the video to the PR nightmare Best Buy weathered when the retailer fired an employee who created a hilarious video mocking the iPhone. But creating a new video is totally different than appropriating footage that doesn’t belong to you.
You could argue that firing the employee is unduly harsh, but a slap on the wrist doesn’t quite cut it, either. This person could be totally apologetic, but the action taken is so careless that it speaks volumes about his or her character. The employee is a time bomb who is going to explode in some other fashion at some point down the line.
This person would have been much smarter to have shown the footage to a Today producer and suggest it as funny segment. To do otherwise was basically asking to be terminated.