Press Release: Forbes "Attack of the Blogs" Article Misleads Readers

ARDEN, NC (14 November 2005) - In an open letter to Forbes Magazine editor-in-chief Steve Forbes, the Internet Press Guild (IPG) has spoken out against the use of fearmongering and character assassination in financial and technology reporting. With reference to a Forbes article called "Attack of the Blogs," published in the November 14th issue of the magazine and also online, the IPG's letter takes the publication to task for reckless reporting that could prove harmful to the journalist community.

Among other offenses to the intelligent reader, the Forbes article lays out a systematic methodology by which an individual can help destroy the credibility of bloggers who are critical of certain corporate conduct, including legal harassment and launching smear campaigns. The spirit of the article calls to mind the climate of fear and guilt by association that characterized the early 1950s, during the "red scare" when intellectuals who questioned the conduct of civil and corporate organizations were persecuted as "anti-American."

IPG chairman Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols said, "No matter where one stands on the question of journalist vs. blogger, Forbes' approach would work equally well on either a seasoned professional journalist or a newly minted blogger.

"There are already legal recourses for anyone that feels that he or she has been damaged in the public arena by a publication. Suggesting that 'digging up dirt' and arranging for it to be published is something one expects from Nixon's dirty tricks plan, not from a journalist," said Vaughan-Nichols.

The IPG letter points out numerous factual errors printed in the Forbes article, many of which were concentrated within a sidebar dealing with columnist Maureen O'Gara's attack campaign against legal news Web site Groklaw, and its publisher, Pamela Jones, a paralegal and IPG member.

Casting suspicion upon Forbes magazine's own motives, the article referred to O'Gara as an "intrepid reporter," despite condemnation of her actions by the very editorial staff of the publication which had printed her story, most of whom immediately resigned in protest. Many professionals have joined that publication's now-former staff and other IPG members in their outrage, including Fred Brown, co-chair of the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

With regards to O'Gara's story, which was praised by the Forbes article, Brown wrote, "That piece by O'Gara definitely is outside the norms of good journalism. It's bullying, insulting and harassing, and I, for one, really don't get the point of it."

"Every practicing journalist has the obligation to scrutinize fairly, and without bias, the activities of the businesses and institutions she covers," said Scott M. Fulton, III, a technology journalist and IPG member. "Certain individuals with particular talents have a special responsibility to draw expert conclusions that are fair, reasonable, unbiased, and even debatable among intelligent readers.

"To leverage the current anti-terrorist climate in suggesting that any individual, whether employed by an institution or devoted to a blog, can and even should have her integrity assailed in public," continued Fulton, "if she should take a stand that is in some way disagreeable to a select group, is to cast aside the democratic foundations of the American press, and to threaten the entrepreneurial spirit upon which Forbes itself was founded. At this time, Forbes has an opportunity to reverse its downward spiral, and rejoin the world of intelligent debate and honest scrutiny that Malcolm Forbes loved so well."

The IPG calls on Forbes to take steps to improve the quality of its journalism in the future. We expect better from Forbes.

The Internet Press Guild is an organization of about 80 of the world's most prominent technology journalists, whose bylines are read and trusted worldwide by millions, and who appear in the world's most prominent print and online publications.


Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols