PRSA Publications Editor John Elsasser published a particularly interesting interview with Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, in its Web bonus section for “Tactics “and “Strategist.”
It turns out that Wales read a “Tactics” article published last March titled, “The wide world of Wikipedia, and why PR practitioners should take note.” Tactics is a monthly publication of PRSA.
In response, Wales contacted Elsasser late this summer saying the article was, “alarmingly wrong and advocates deeply unethical behavior.” The article talked about transparency and neutrality in edits. But as many of you may know, Wales deeply opposes any public relations professional or special interest directly editing Wikipedia articles.
Elasasser responded to Wales in an e-mail that the ethical practice of public relations is of the utmost importance to PRSA. Subsequently, Wales agreed to answer a handful of questions sent to him via e-mail.
Wales message continues to be “hands off Wikipedia” and he recommends that PR practitioners use the discussion page to add comment and concerns. I did this just today, and you can read it on the Wikipedia page about mobile homes and watch how the community will respond, if it does at all (we'll see). I think my comment was respectful and factual, plus it’s a subject I know well since I worked for the Manufactured Housing Institute for years, served as a trade editor on the subject and still do some work for the industry. However, I wasn’t on the payroll to make the comment.
Wales also said the following in his interview, which I thought was interesting: “Based on recent experiences, it is my perception that there are many honorable people in the [PR] industry, and an unfortunate tendency in the industry to defend those who are not, with some pretty thin rationalizations.”
The article also referenced Wikipedian Joe Mabel’s article with tips on how PR reps or special interest groups might interact with Wikipedia and its editors. I thought the page was very helpful, as is Constantin’s blog page where he is keeping tabs on the Wikipedia discussion.
In other PRSA news. PRSA plans to blog its International conference next week. I think that this foray into social media by this trade group should be closely watched. Since I can’t attend the conference, I have subscribed to the RSS feed and look forward to participating that way.
(Disclaimer: I am on a volunteer committee to move forward on social media initiatives at PRSA, though I didn’t have anything to do with the conference blog).
Photo of Jimmy “Jumbo” Wales by ioerror