Headlines grab attention. Some writers spend more time composing the headline than the article itself because they know that many people just scan headlines for stuff that might interest them. I read two headlines today that grabbed my attention, but the actual story was very different than the headline hyperbole would lead you to believe.
|1.||obvious and intentional exaggeration.|
|2.||an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”|
“Wikipedia has an entry on Open XML that has a lot of slanted language, and we'd like for them to make it more objective but we feel that it would be best if a non-Microsoft person were the source of any corrections,” reads the email Mahugh apparently wrote to Jelliffe.
“Would you have any interest or availability to do some of this kind of work? Your reputation as a leading voice in the XML community would carry a lot of credibility, so your name came up in a discussion of the Wikipedia situation today."
I am sure "Microsoft" would never have approved this employee reaching out to Mr. Jelliffe in this way, but "Microsoft" can't control all the actions of all its employees. This employee was well meaning, but handled this all wrong. Any PR person or VP level person would have known how this seemingly innocent request could potentially be twisted in a news headline, and would have never approved it.
We all work for someone in our day jobs. Microsoft PR probably wouldn't approve of me writing this blog entry either. Their reasoning would be something like, "there is nothing to gain and lots to lose. Just be quiet." Maybe they are right, but I think open honest communication is always better, mistakes and all, then predictable corporate spin.
Like it or not, everything we do before, during, or after, work reflects on our employers. I do try to be respectful of the wishes of my employer, and try to always understand that even though I am acting on my own, others might perceive what I say or do to represent the views of Microsoft. Most reporters know that only statements from Microsoft Corporate are official. Blogs written by high level employees can blur the lines. It is a risk Microsoft, and many other companies, are willing to take in the interest of open dialog.
What do you think? Did Yahoo release Panama ahead of schedule? Did Microsoft try to doctor Wikipedia? Or maybe it doesn't matter because we are already conditioned to take headlines with a grain of salt?
The sad thing is I just took the time to read the Wikipedia entry in question, and it looks pretty reasonable "as is". Who knows...there may be some arcane description or sentence that is slanted, but you would have to be an expert in this field to find it...or to care about it. The bad headlines and PR hits were in no way worth whatever might be gained by correcting some preceived slants.