Having been a journalist in the past, I think I’m fairly qualified to comment on how far up their own arses many journalists’ heads are. And the answer to that is, very, very far.
Today’s shocking story begins when Wired journalist Fred Vogelstein was in the process of writing a fairly long-winded and detail-heavy story on Microsoft’s attitude to transparency in dealing with the media and the public. Due to an email stuff-up, one of Microsoft’s PR chaps accidentally forwarded Vogelstein the “secret dossier” that Microsoft kept on him. So flummoxed by this was Vogelstein, he posted about it in his blog and published the offending document in full. The ensuing bad publicity drove Waggener Edstrom President Frank Shaw to publish a defence in his blog.
Vogelstein makes out that the entire 5,500 words was all dirt on him. In truth, the majority of the 13-page document is a bunch of forwarded emails and discussion of key messages and expected questions, the sort of research any good PR company would do for a major client facing an important interview. Especially a company as obsessed with spin and media perceptions as Microsoft.
Perhaps half a page is devoted to Fred himself and contains such wow-scary revelations as:
Fred’s stories tend to be a bit sensational, though he would consider them to be balanced and fair.
Fred can be a little tricky in interviews. He looks deeply for any dirt around whatever topic he is focused on and generally is tight lipped about the direction he will take for his stories, sometimes even misleading you to throw you off.
It takes him a bit to get his thoughts across, so try to be patient.
[Fred] tends to start off his discussions with softball questions, but they progressively get deeper and deeper until he unearths something he finds interesting. Be careful of his approach.
Actually, the memo raises a valid point. How is this entire kerfuffle, from beginning to end, anything but sensationalist, self-important nonsense?
It’s Microsoft’s job to try and influence Fred to report the story in as favourable a light as possible and it’s his job not to let them. Aside from some PR flunkey being a doofus with email, which happens all the time, where is the story?
Oh I see, it’s the irony of how this secret-squirrel business came to light in the process of writing a story about transparency. Newsflash: an American has discovered irony.