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Shooting before Aiming

A business-oriented website all but accused the editor of Men’s Health magazine, in a blog posting on Yahoo, of inserting an advertising plug into his copy. Oh, there was a disclaimer of sorts — maybe the blog writer “really loves the product,” suggested Dan Zoll in his posting — but the rest of the piece left almost no doubt in my mind about what he was thinking.

Reading the posting at issue, I confess I was also somewhat suspicious of the wording (and think the product plug raised a reasonable question). But, as I asked in a note to AllBusiness, which flagged the item in the first place: Did anyone ask the writer, or anyone at Yahoo, for a comment before essentially accusing the editor, his magazine and Yahoo of unethical behavior?

The AllBusiness writer said, no, he hadn’t. Uh, oh.

Later, he wrote again to say he’d posted this update, acknowledging that his initial posting had made an incorrect assumption. There was no business relationship. (As of this writing, the original posting was unchanged — it, too, needs an update.)

Seems to me this is an almost perfect example of a tendency that’s all too common in media today, and not just in blogs: People find it easy to fire before aiming. (I’ve done it myself, though I don’t think I’ve ever raised ethical questions about someone else in this way.)

A lesson here, I hope…

(Disclosure: I’m teaching a course at UC Berkeley with Bill Gannon, Yahoo’s editorial director.)

3 Comments on “Shooting before Aiming”

  1. #1 Delia
    on Dec 24th, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    Dan: if it wasn’t unethical it seems to have been just plain dumb… (this reads like something straight out of an advertisement pamphlet to me…)

    “Dash’s new Express In-Car navigation system ( might not help with your primary search (finding a potential mate), but it will keep you on the right path. It’s the first nav system with two-way connectivity, not only using Wi-Fi and cellular networks to pull in traffic and weather conditions, but also communicating with other Dash drivers and adjusting your route accordingly.”


    P.S. then again, the leading passage sounds ever worse:”Women like strong men, and not sob stories. Give yourself a testosterone boost by purchasing something manly. Like electronics.” (sounds like a desperate door to door salesman… what’s wrong with this guy? can’t he see what this reads like?) D.

  2. #2 Dan Gillmor
    on Dec 25th, 2006 at 8:06 am

    Delia, I’m offering no opinion about the quality of the writing…

  3. #3 Iulian Comanescu
    on Dec 26th, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    You’re perfectly right from the classical journalism point of view. However, as a professional journalist maintaining two blogs for the last couple of months, I can notice that a blogger seldom has the same weapons as a journalist. Of course, in the Yahoo case a questioning e-mail was perfectly possible. But in other cases, a single person can’t check the facts to the same extent that an editorial team can.

    This is why on Romanian blogs professionals tend to mark as such uncertain information or rather question than accuse in cases like the one above.