Shallow journalism at Forbes magazine

When you see a business magazine story about blogs with the title “Attack of The Blogs!,” you should know what to expect. A cover story in the latest edition of Forbes magazine doesn’t disappoint as this paragraph indicates:

[…] Blogs started a few years ago as a simple way for people to keep online diaries. Suddenly they are the ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns. It’s not easy to fight back: Often a bashing victim can’t even figure out who his attacker is. No target is too mighty, or too obscure, for this new and virulent strain of oratory.

What does disappoint, though, is that this amazing example of shallow journalism was published by the supposedly thoughtful and intelligent Forbes magazine. It illustrates either that the journalist concerned (and his editor) is wholly clueless on the topic about which he writes, or was aiming for the sensationalist tabloid approach to his topic – much as Advertising Age did earlier this week with equally shoddy journalistic practice dressed up as research – or both.

What’s equally amazing are quotes in the Forbes piece from Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Intelliseek, one of the primary blogosphere research and marketing intelligence companies for business, and Frank Shaw, executive vice president at Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft’s main PR firm, reinforcing Forbes’ negative and alarmist view on blogs. I can only assume that those quotes are taken wholly out of context.

Indeed, I’d be surprised if Pete Blackshaw’s comments are as stand-alone as they appear to be, as what Forbes quotes him as saying is definitely not in line with my impression of his more inclusive views about blogs from the FIR podcast interview that Shel Holtz and I had with him in August.

But there is a bright side to this sorry little tale.

My advice to any business person is to go ahead and read the Forbes article. Then, go to Business Week’s website and read the cover feature “Blogs will Change Your Business” published in early May.

Now here you have a good example of intelligent journalism in how it treats its subject matter and takes a far more realistic and practical view on how you should regard blogs:

[…] Go ahead and bellyache about blogs. But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they’re simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself. And they’re going to shake up just about every business — including yours. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shipping paper clips, pork bellies, or videos of Britney in a bikini, blogs are a phenomenon that you cannot ignore, postpone, or delegate. Given the changes barreling down upon us, blogs are not a business elective. They’re a prerequisite.

Unlike the Forbes approach, Business Week’s feature is a balanced story and does address the negative aspects of what blogs can become alongside the positive, thus making a credible case for why you should be examining these new communication channels.

It’s a no-brainer to easily see who is making the better case.

  • Other bloggers I’ve seen today with critical commentary on the Forbes story include Steve Rubel and Dan Gillmor.

10 thoughts on “Shallow journalism at Forbes magazine

  1. This is essentially a binary story: black or white. I have lots of great examples of the power of blogs to be positive in multiple ways. AND it is true that there is the potential for brand damage, and the companies need to be smart and prepared to deal with this.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Frank.
    I’d probably be ok with the Forbes article if it was about black and white (note ‘and’ not ‘or’). But it’s not – it’s just the black (if we see black as the dark side of The Force, so to speak). I may not agree with their views but if they were presented more honestly, I’d at least respect the writer.
    The disservice the magazine has done is to portray a one-sided negative view as if that’s the only view, and present that view in a narrow and sensationalist fashion.
    A pile of trash, to quote Dan Gillmor.

  3. Forbes Blogger Bashing

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