There is a great piece by Johann Hari in today’s independent where he gives a personal apology around using some not so ethical techniques when creating stories, I’d encourage everyone to read it here:
This piece struck a chord with me for a number of reasons. As someone on the receiving end of this type practice it was nice to see someone acknowledge that this is poor form, and I admire Johann’s courage and humility in owning up.
Two years ago I set up this blog as an experiment. I wanted this blog to represent my own thoughts on technology gained over 25 or so years in the IT industry and importantly I wanted to do it without affiliation or to prejudice my employer Sage (incedentally this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned my employer on this site).
Don’t get me wrong I love Sage, it’s a great company to work for, and I already write posts for the official Sage blog. But this was my blog it wasn’t about Sage and I wanted to use this to collaborate with people who have interests similar to my own, to learn more about the industry I chose as a career, and to share my considerable experience of the IT industry.
So away I went and I took the greatest of care to state that all comments I make are my own. What’s more I set up a twitter account to lead people to my blog based on exactly the same principles and ethics.
Has this worked?
Absolutely not… despite what I set out to do and the care I took not to use Sage’s name to promote my personal blog in any way, the comments I make and the things I write about are automatically attributed to Sage by those industry commentators and Sage critics looking for a story.
On numerous occasions the personal comments I have made about IT industry trends or events have been deliberately manipulated and in some cases used against Sage. There could be a number of reasons for this, someone has a personal agenda against me, someone has a personal agenda against Sage, or sometimes the facts on their own don’t make for a very compelling article, so the author embellishes the facts to build their own version of a story in a similar way as described by Johann’s piece earlier. Of course Johann isn’t alone in this, indeed he probably isn’t the worst, and I’m sure it will continue to be a widely used technique for the rest of eternity.
So, the advice I would offer to people in a similar position to myself would be… everything you say will most likely come back to your employer, don’t let anyone sucker you into a position where they can use you to get to your employer (believe me they won’t stop trying), and don’t let anyone make you look like a fool.
Be careful out there people….