Oh, Elon. Elon, Elon, Elon.
As you, the reader, little question know, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been blasting the media – and monetary analysts – for being crucial of his firm and/or its merchandise. He was too irritated to even reply questions from analysts throughout one current earnings name – turning consideration as an alternative to a YouTube consumer who occurs to be a Tesla investor and obvious fanboy. Musk gave him the ground for over 20 minutes.
Musk’s meltdown has continued since. Final week he stirred up shit on Twitter by suggesting that the media is mendacity and that he’ll create a media-score service. He additionally might or might not have blown an anti-Semitic canine whistle (I don’t think that was his intent, however I can see why it was taken that means – particularly given a few of the nasty stuff that’s taken place on Twitter since, oh, lo about mid-2015 or so) within the course of.
That’s simply the brief model.
There’s a lot to unpack right here – a lot that I sat observing a clean Phrase doc for 10 minutes, obtained up and paced round my place, sat down, stared some extra, surfed the online a bit, and eventually got here again, nonetheless not understanding the place to start out.
I assume let’s begin with the apparent, with the primary conclusion that I shaped a couple of days in the past and that The Atlantic and others have additionally come across (twice, in The Atlantic’s case) – Elon Musk both doesn’t perceive, or doesn’t care about, how basic journalism works.
Put merely, journalists are usually not paid to advertise Tesla or another firm. We work for our readers/listeners/viewers, and we’re not right here to cheerlead. That’s what an organization’s PR division exists for. This additionally applies to analysts. They’re looking for the reality as nicely, albeit for a special viewers – company shoppers or buyers as an alternative of most of the people. There’s an overlap in talent set between journalists and analysts for a cause.
A few of us are charged with investigating company misbehavior or malfeasance. That’s why Reveal discovered that Tesla’s plant in California seemed to be an unsafe place to work.
Different journos are tasked with reporting any and all information referring to Tesla, whether or not it’s constructive or adverse from the corporate’s viewpoint. Others are requested to review the automobiles the corporate builds, and within the curiosity of serving car consumers, to be trustworthy about what they discover – once more, no matter whether or not it makes Tesla look good or dangerous.
It’s not that difficult. However whether or not due to skinny pores and skin, a want to deflect consideration away from his firm’s failings and alter the dialog to “Musk vs. the media,” a lack of information in what journalism’s position in society is, or a mixture of all three, Musk has made it about himself and his response to media criticism. Not the automobiles.
Let’s begin with Musk’s grievance that Tesla crashes make information and different car-associated deaths don’t. First, that’s improper – the media has reported on car-crash deaths extensively. Not simply on the nationwide degree, however native information broadcasts all the time appear to say a wreck or two. Second, and extra to the purpose – when an Autopilot-outfitted Tesla crashes, it makes information as a result of the know-how is new and comparatively unproven. Musk or his followers typically say the media is killing individuals by discouraging the event of autonomous automobiles, however I’d flip that round – if the misuse of the tech by misinformed drivers results in deadly crashes, isn’t the tech already killing individuals? To not point out that whereas it’s logical to say that self-driving automobiles might sometime scale back or remove car-associated deaths, it’s not but a given.
A pair weeks after that, Musk went loopy on Twitter following a bit from professional-Tesla website Electrek that quoted an analyst who dismissed considerations over damaging headlines. In the meantime, the Mannequin three initially fell in need of Shopper Stories’ coveted “Beneficial” score, thanks partially to an extended stopping distance. The Mannequin three did ultimately earn the score after one other test, following over-the-air updates to the car.
Perhaps it’s from all that sleeping on the manufacturing unit flooring, or the stress from not with the ability to meet promised manufacturing deadlines (sorry, Elon, however we warned you: Constructing automobiles and promoting them in mass portions is freakin’ exhausting), however Musk went deep into tweetstorm metropolis.
What Musk is doing is basic deflection and discrediting – straight from the playbook of you-know-who. And it really works, to an extent, as a result of the media, like all human-run establishment, sometimes has failures. Some are trustworthy errors (keep in mind the misidentification of the Boston Marathon bomber by a newspaper prioritizing velocity over accuracy?) and a few are scandals brought on by the doings of excessive-profile journalists (see: Williams, Brian or Blair, Jayson). Failures of each sorts harm the credibility of all of us, as a result of outsiders like to color with a broad brush. This is applicable to all professions, in fact – we’ve all stereotyped legal professionals as shady and sleazy when solely a small proportion are.
One of the primary belongings you study in J-faculty is how necessary credibility is, and one of many second belongings you study is how straightforward it’s for it to be misplaced – typically via the actions of different journalists and no fault of your personal. Individuals like Musk realize it’s straightforward to select aside the credibility of these of us who report truthfully on Tesla – he can take a look at excessive-profile examples of journalistic malfeasance or errors and say “see?!”
I do know somebody who lives on the opposite coast who additionally does the identical factor.
Add in hyper-partisan media on each side of the aisle (a few of these retailers play fairly unfastened with details) and precise “pretend information” hoaxes (ahem, Pizzagate), plus the truth that most of us in all probability didn’t sit via a journalism a hundred and one class rising up, and you’ve got a media consumer that may simply be led to consider that the media is mendacity or beholden to highly effective anti-Tesla (or anti-EV) company pursuits, when actually all of the media is doing is reporting honestly on Tesla. It simply occurs to be a fact Musk doesn’t like, one that would even harm the underside line, so as an alternative of wanting inward, as he ought to, Musk lashes out.
Lastly, Musk is exclusive amongst huge-identify enterprise figures in that he’s constructed a cult-like following, no less than amongst a proportion of his supporters (identical to – yeah, you get it). A few of these individuals are mechanically going to take his phrase over the verifiable and goal information, and that’s that. I don’t see Mary Barra or Sergio Marchionne getting the identical remedy any time quickly.
I ought to observe right here that regardless of my indirect references to the present resident of 1600 Pennsylvania in D.C., I don’t absolutely agree with Bret Stephens’ assertion within the paper of report that Musk is Silicon Valley’s Trump. Stephens has some truthful and correct factors, however he additionally misses the mark on some, as defined right here. More to the purpose, his thesis is a little bit of an oversimplification – Musk and Donny J. might react to adverse press protection the identical approach (Trump has even stated that he makes an attempt to discredit the press as a way to get his supporters to consider him), however there are large variations between the 2.
One factor that is the identical, although, is that each males used the identical press they vilify to succeed in their present positions. The press gave Trump’s marketing campaign a whole lot of protection, not as a result of it needed him to win, however as a result of the marketing campaign had a carnival environment, and that protection might have helped him win. Equally, Musk and Tesla have gotten a whole lot of constructive press through the years, and that in all probability hasn’t harm Tesla’s makes an attempt to promote automobiles.
Factor is, and I’ve stated this earlier than, a number of us on this business truly need to see Tesla succeed. That doesn’t imply we’ll cheerlead for the corporate or maintain again on reporting damaging information – we’ve got to do our jobs. However reporting truths that occur to be adverse or being trustworthy a few car’s failings isn’t the identical as rooting for failure/towards success. This is applicable to different elements of the journalism world, as the present sports activities editor of the school newspaper I as soon as toiled for explains right here, in reference to my alma mater’s failures on the hardwood.
I guarantee you, Elon, for those who’re studying this, that I don’t hate your organization. I’m not being paid underneath the desk by different automakers or Huge Oil to write down negatively about Tesla. Nor am I underneath some company mandate to be imply to Tesla. I simply am obligated to report in your firm truthfully. So is my employees and a lot of the different journalists masking Tesla (I concede there could possibly be a journo or two with a hidden agenda, however the one one I’ve seen to date is definitely in all probability in your aspect).
Additionally, dude, you don’t have to create a website to price the media. It’s not as a result of we will’t take the warmth (though I think crowd-sourcing it can result in loads of inaccuracies. Irony!) however as a result of Snopes and Politifact exist already, and whereas their main goal isn’t to fee media accuracy, they achieve this when warranted. Sorry, that “want” has been crammed already.
Elon, we within the media aren’t afraid to have our credibility rated by a 3rd-get together website, however we’re involved that a website like your deliberate “Pravda” might be misused to create extra misinformation, or to unfairly impugn the credibility of respectable retailers which might be doing trustworthy work. All it takes is a military of trolls to downvote a reputable story that they don’t like, and identical to that, extra misinformation has been unfold.
Mr. Musk, let me faculty you on two extra elements of journalism. You’re truly partly proper once you say that we’re underneath strain to get clicks. Simply how TV information wants ratings, or newspapers want a mixture of newsstand gross sales/promoting/subscriptions. Why, it’s virtually as if a lot of the media is a for-revenue enterprise!
Apart from Reveal, which is a non-revenue. Guess not everybody out there’s trying to revenue off Tesla’s faults.
Sarcasm apart, simply because we’d like clicks doesn’t imply we do sloppy work, push an agenda, or play unfastened with details. High quality journalism and the necessity to have an viewers learn our work isn’t mutually unique. You possibly can have a quick headline that will get clicks that can also be factually correct and refers to a real story. You’ll be able to work to get clicks and stay goal and unbiased. Moreover, there’s a separation between promoting and editorial at any outlet value its salt.
Second, when you’re right in saying that the majority media retailers are company owned, most journalists and editors aren’t beholden to report what the proprietor needs – editorial and possession not often work together. A basic fact of journalism is that editors and reporters are often not interfered with from above. Positive, we at TTAC have sometimes been requested to run some (clearly marked) advertorial content material, and our bosses might give us some very common, very broad steerage on the location’s course and tone, however usually talking, we’re on our personal to seek out the content material combine that works best for our true masters – the readers. And that’s how it’s at nearly each reliable media outlet.
I suppose perhaps you’re confused as a result of there are some retailers which were criticized for an excessive amount of company management over editorial? That may occur – there are exceptions to each rule. Google “Sheldon Adelson” and “Las Vegas Evaluate-Journal” someday. Or Fox Information. Or Breitbart. Then keep in mind that these retailers are outliers.
Oh yeah, one other factor – cease utilizing websites run by (alleged) intercourse cults to again up your factors.
Look, Elon, if you’d like good press, construct good automobiles, and take accountability if you fall brief. It’s not that tough.
And perhaps delete your account. A minimum of for a bit. You possibly can all the time come again – maybe when you hit the subsequent manufacturing deadline.
– One More Media Take On Elon Musk’s Media Meltdown –
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