An interesting debate has been sparked by “WikiTweaks: PR staff wield the airbrush for warts and all removal” (News, 21 November). As Stephen Waddington, president-elect of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, usefully reminds us: “PR is at its best when it is used openly and honestly to foster dialogue” (Letters, 28 November).
The National Union of Journalists’ Public Relations and Communications Council couldn’t agree more and has its own “ethics at work” guidelines. And while we encourage people to use quality journalism, such as Times Higher Education, to learn from its informed insights, we know that Wikipedia is an invaluable online encyclopedia for many young people: often it is the first (and sometimes the only) independent reference point they use, including when considering their higher education destinations. Universities should treat it as respectfully as their potential students do.
The CIPR’s guidelines provide excellent advice on the dos and don’ts of editing or “correcting” what Wikipedia says about an institution. And if press officers (and other communications personnel) feel pressured by management to behave unprofessionally, the NUJ is the union to join.
Nic Mitchell and Phil Morcom
Co-chairs, National Union of Journalists’ Public Relations and Communications Council