Sanchez's popular Twitter account handle is named @RickSanchezCNN, but he'll be able to change that without losing his thousands of followers. He hasn't changed it yet, nor made any kind of statement over that public channel, but this unique intersection of traditional media and new media at a time of professional upheaval presents some interesting questions.
Does Sanchez Owe CNN any Followers?
Does Sanchez own his Twitter account or does CNN? Ought he be required to remove the reference to CNN from his name? Should he do so before or after making some public statement about being fired?
You can still visit the Twitter profile page of another fired CNN reporter, @OctaviaNasrCNN, but all her followers and messages have now been switched over to @OctaviaNasr - without the CNN.
What Does it Mean to Have a Media Megaphone in 2010?
Did CNN lose out on the social media investment they put into Sanchez's personal account over the years? Ought they have driven all followers to an official company account instead, in case something like this happened? Presumably some people would see it that way, but social media is so personality-driven that wouldn't likely have worked as well.
Sanchez is out of a job, but he hasn't lost his very public voice. That's a historical anomaly. Does the free-form nature of social media, combined with the personal ownership over this platform, combine to make public figures more comfortable saying things they might not have said in the past?
Not everyone liked Sanchez on camera very much. (He's kind of annoying, as social media experts so often are perhaps.) Do people like him more or less in short-form text? Will he be able to pull something out of his hat, 140 characters at a time? Will his comfort with emerging media platforms make it easier for him to get his next job with old media? (The comments that got him fired will make that all the more difficult.) Perhaps he'll try to do something entirely new himself, on new media.
We could go on and on. There are many, many questions that come up about this situation and very few clear answers. We're in new territory, folks.