April 10, 2006

From the Mr. Potato Head School of Journalism

Just once, just once, I'd love to see a newspaper get the information right, print it right. Just once. What a miracle that would be.

I'm in today's paper in an article in the business section. What is presented there is a "phrase salad," a surrealist composition that passes as an interview until you find out this isn't how it went down at all. Instead what we have are various phrases and snippets of quotes from the interview, chopped up, stirred up, randomized and presented as fact. But the reality is, I did not say these things as the paper has printed them. Far from it.

The San Diego Union-Tribune occasionally runs a series in the business section called "Five Questions." The theory is simple: reporter asks local businessperson five questions, gets five answers. The resulting interview, again in theory, would then be edited down to something readable in the span of time it takes to go from plunging your spoon into your bowl of cereal, eating the contents on the spoon, and then taking another spoonful.

Reporter interviewed me on March 31st. Phone interview. I spoke about how the company came about, how it got funded. He mentioned he knew Esther Dyson, who was our first investor. I spoke about how the company is not just a website (Eventful.com), but also a web platform (EVDB) of data services that companies can use to build custom applications, even commercial applications. How Eventful is built on that very same platform that others can build on too.

I focused a lot on Eventful Demand, since that is the newsworthy thing right now. Explained to him the three "domains" of events we're addressing with Eventful: known, expected, and dream events. Explained each carefully. Then elaborated on how Eventful Demand addresses the third domain, how it works, why it's significant, etc. How it enables a community of fans to connect, collaborate, and campaign for a desired event by a favorite performer, and how the tools also work for the performer.

Then he asked me about the business model, and seemed to have trouble with it. "Sort of a complex business model," he told me. He had difficulty grasping the notion of how the model was one way for the Eventful site (mostly ads, with commissions from affilliate partnerships including tickets, and some other revenue from other sources, hopefully in the long run including participating in the upside for big events that come about from Demands) and another way for the EVDB API (fees for commercial usage of the EVDB API).

I kept trying to figure out how in the world was he going to turn this interview into a Five Questions article, as it seemed we'd not done five questions. I asked him how he was going to do it? Was he going to go through the interview and stitch together the various statements and essentially manufacture a 5-question interview? That's exactly what he did.

I swear, high-school students could have done a better job.

In a perfect world, he'd have written up the resulting "interview" and run it by me via email to confirm that the constructed answers somewhat resembled what I stated. Fact checking, I think that is what I studied when I studied journalism class in school. I would have caught his bizarre, out-of-context constructions (my most favorite are the "answer" to the question "What is Eventful Demand" and the fact readers will construe that the "it" in the next question, "Where did it come from," is Demand, when it is actually the idea for EVDB) and helped make them more sensible.

But it is not a perfect world.

Instead we get the Union-Tribune.

From now on I'm recording the interviews I give, and I'll run the transcripts here so readers can make up their own minds as to what was said and what was meant.

Posted by brian at April 10, 2006 08:12 AM


Well, someone put on his Angry Eyes this morning!

Really, it's not terrible. The cracks show but, hey, it's press and your name is spelled correctly and it's got one of your URLs in the first graf. Nothing remotely resembling the phrase "the company is not just a website, but also a web platform" is going to make it into a soundbite box in a daily newspaper.

Also, you either read a lot faster than I do or eat cereal a lot slower.

Posted by: Paul at April 10, 2006 03:58 PM

Really, I'm not surprised. I've been in the industry since 1995, my wife works for a company that can be construed as a competitor of yours, we've both read every single mention of your company we've come across, and *I* can barely understand what you guys are doing. Really, there's something to be said for having a single business model and a simple idea that can be stated in 1 comma-free sentence.

Posted by: Mike at April 11, 2006 07:36 PM

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