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.)