We Were Wrong

Dan with his iMac 

By Kyle Austin

It takes courage to say, especially when you’re in the media. Unfortunately, in the past it has often been a one way street. While the media has always been happy to report on those admitting faultGiambi Offers Steroids Mea Culpa,” (disclaimer – I am a Red Sox fan and take some joy in this) they’ve often managed to side step falling on their own sword.

In cases where the media have made mea culpa’s it’s often so far after the fact that it feels a bit too “Monday Morning Quarterback.” New York Times ombudsman Byron Calame drew ire for this when he issued this mea culpa three months after the paper’s decision to publish a June 23, 2006 article on a once-secret banking-data surveillance program.

By the way I’m still waiting for someone in the sports media other then the Sports Guy to say “We Were All Wrong” in taking CameraGate too far.

So I have to admit, I was somewhat taken back last Friday at a Boston Social Media Club event in Newton when I heard Mr. Fake Steve Jobs, AKA Dan Lyons, say “We (Forbes) Were Wrong.”

He was of course referring to the infamous November 2005 cover story Attack of the Blogs.”  In which he wrote “Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective.”

Now it would be far too easy to rip on Dan for finally falling on his sword two years after the fact or poke fun at the irony in him penning this piece and then becoming one of the most popular anonymous-to-recognized bloggers around. I’ll save that for another post. Instead, my focus was on Dan’s candor in discussing his thoughts on the cover story, which he labeled a “PR Nightmare,” and by how he believes admitting faults has become a two way street in the new social media universe.

For instance, after he penned the piece in 2005, Forbes was destroyed in the blogosphere and after being inundated with feedback Dan and his colleagues quickly realized that they were wrong with several statements they made in the story. However, minus printing letters to the editor or writing a “follow-through” article several months or even years later – there wasn’t much they could do.

In the years to follow as Dan got “hooked” on blogging and began writing more online pieces for Forbes.com, he began to embrace the open dialogue that social media creates. More specifically, he appreciated the instant ability it gave him to say “I was wrong.” – as he did just last week in an online column for Forbes.com on the SCO Group v. IBM case.

So as we pull back the curtains on RaceTalk today we want to take a moment to say in advance “We were wrong.” It’s bound to happen and when it does we hope you call us on it. In fact we welcome it. “Come on in, the waters fine,” as one of my colleagues would say.

In the end, it only leads to better conversation and that’s better for all of us.

Well, just about all of us as Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff, summed up nicely on the same panel last week “There’s only one group of people that this (social media) is really bad for – liars.”

And liars, we are not.

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