It’s one of the worst things that can show up in my inbox. My heart sinks every single time I see it.
RE: IMPORTANT CORRECTION (URGENT.)
I sigh. I’m frustrated. I didn’t do my job the best I could and something must have slipped. I kick myself for thinking that I might have missed something important or misspelled a name. Even in the era of fantastic spell-checking, that still happens. All that happens before I even open the message from Company X’s public relations team.
Then I realize it’s not a correction. It’s a “clarification” or an “important distinction.” It’s some kind of sick play to get the company represented in a more positive light. But every single time it’s labeled a “factual error” by either the company that is trying to get a little bit of more positive play or the public relations person trying to get me to change the story.
“I must stress that I am not talking about just language used (I take [former VentureBeat executive editor] Owen’s point — you’re not our PR agency!) but describing us as an online service is incorrect — we are a mobile platform,” one public relations representative said in an email.
I then had to take a few minutes to explain that an operating system like OS X or something like Facebook — not his client’s video sharing application — was a platform. That’s, of course, going off the definition of being able to build smaller pieces of software within the framework of a larger piece of software that runs all of them.
Three levels of abstraction away, said video sharing application is a platform. Except that is incredibly confusing because it also throws it into the same category as other “platforms” like Facebook. And it’s also insanely confusing for readers, who odds are also aren’t quite sure what actually codifies a “platform.”
So here I am, trying to correct your correction. During this time — which is usually during typical office hours — I spend trying to spar with you, I could have been writing additional stories. But I’m operating under the false assumption that I might need you to pitch me additional stories and I opened your message under the false assumption that I had apparently written something that was factually incorrect.
Here’s the thing, guys. You are not the gatekeepers of information. There are other ways to get the story. If it’s important enough, I and every other reporter out there in the world will find a way to get the story. It’s our job to be scrappy and it’s our job to be relentless when trying to figure out the best story.
You can either help us by pitching us stories with useful information and facilitating the communication. Or you can insult every one of us for the sake of getting a single word changed to something that is an even worse buzzword and run the risk of sabotaging an otherwise useful relationship. We here at VentureBeat already put up with your insipid demands for embargoes over new cloud computing software model number 771.
I’m personally going to ask you guys to stick to your guns and help us do our job. It make things much easier for all of us.
(Also, everyone is banned from using the word “platform” from here on out.)