Saturday, March 18, 2006

15 seconds of fame

A few days ago my husband gets a call at work from a reporter at Money magazine. She wants to talk to him about his job and what it's like to be a relatively recent grad. Once he gets over the surprise, he's happy to answer her questions:

What do you do? Do you like your job? Is it stressful? What is the rest of the field like? Did you have a hard time finding a job? How do you think the job market is changing?

It's a benign conversation mostly about how he's really happy doing what he does. In his recounting of the conversation to me, it was full of gentle disclaimers like "I can only speak for myself..."

At the end of the afternoon, as he's driving home he realizes that it's probably a good idea to check with someone first before talking to a national magazine about what it's like to work with your company. By the time he got home, the poor guy had convinced himself that he'd be fired. He overreacted, but when people lose their jobs over mentioning their employer in a blog, it's not unreasonable to be cautious.

In my school district, the initial training for all teachers included a 10-minute spiel "Why you should never trust anyone in the press and even be careful what you say to your neighbors." He didn't get that spiel. Though it's an internationally renowned company pretty important in its field, no one ever formally warned the employees about reporters, explained a protocol, etc. It's not as though he gave away any trade secrets or said anything but praise about his job. Still, he imagined everything he'd said in the worst possible context: "Employee from ACME says job market is radically changing."

He sent an embarrassed email to the external relations department and also one to the reporter asking that she not print anything until he got permission from the company. It all worked out in the end, of course. She said she understood and wasn't planning to use much of it in her story anyway, and no one in a black tie and sunglasses showed up at his office the next day dragging him off to be interrogated. At least he was able to laugh about the dumbfounded expression on his boss' face about the whole story. "You spoke to WHO? And you're worried about THAT?"


Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

You can never be too careful. It's a bummer that he stressed over it for awhile. I'm glad it all worked out in the end.

I get asked each year at my annual training who to contact if a member of the media inquires about anything work-related. Fortunately, nobody has asked so far.

Have a nice weekend --

2:02 PM  
Blogger Hamel said...

I agree you can never be too careful. But this also says alot about your husband's ethics and integrity, him coming right out and trying to fix what he was afraid was an error, rather than trying to hide it.

6:11 PM  
Blogger James said...

I've sat through several of those 'don't say anything unless we tell you what to say meetings. Sadly, there's nothing employers hate more than free speech. I'm glad everything worked out well.

4:47 AM  
Blogger mal said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:16 AM  
Blogger mal said...

the press has their own motivations and most are not driven by an altruistic need to supply clear and accurate information to the public. I have been burned by them and quite frankly one of my sibs and I paid them back in spades a few years later. (LA Times,Creeps) petty of us, but satisfying none the less

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER talk to the press unless you completely understand what they want and it is in your best interest.

"I have seen the dark lord and his name was Geraldo" Opus in Bloom County

6:20 AM  
Blogger mal said...

BTW...I agree with Hamel's comment about your husband not hiding it. Class move

6:21 AM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

I've had my share of 'this is cool/what did I do?' moments. At least he caught it. It's better to discover it yourself than to be called into the corner office over it.

Most reporters are simply trying to do a job the best they can. Sometimes they reveal truths that some folks don't like. Sometimes they misunderstand. Sometimes they blatanly misrepresent. Like any other job, 50% of them are in the bottom half of proficiency at it.

From my perspective, the LA Times does a pretty good job of disinterested reporting.


7:35 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I worked on a PR publication for several years, so I tend to think well of people who print their words for a living. I also know how hard damage control is when a member of an organization either publicly says something that is taken out of context or simply says something ludicrous.

My husband is a good guy. That counts for a lot.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Old Man Rich said...

Of course, now that the management consider him a press leak he will recieve an endless supply of misinformation, management spiel & general cow excrement. On the plus side, they will want to keep him happy, so he can expect a better class of biscuit.

4:09 AM  

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