Mea culpa. There I was on my jerky high horse the other day with a post about our policies, ethics, independence
and blah, blah blah blah, and what happened next? I botched the whole thing up. I made multiple errors in a story
that came together partly because of one of our holy policies. And in the process of building the story, I violated another of those policies I'm so smug about.
Now, you might think the following is no big deal and why do a full blog post about it?
There, I'm just acknowledging that you might think that.
Now back to me.
So here's what happened. Bail now if you don't care for the weeds.
On the holiday Monday evening, I'm hanging out at home, living my real life while also unwisely watching my email. An email titled "Travelport announcement under embargo" arrives with an attached release that was scheduled to go out nine hours later. In the email, a request to honor an embargo for an advance copy and a comment that the writer "would be grateful if you could wait for confirmation from me in the morning (at around 0800 UK time) before publishing anything."
Now, I realize it's pretty harsh to ignore a request like that. Especially from someone I work with. But, damn, this was interesting news that will be most interesting to our paying subscribers if they hear it from us first. Plus we were already looking at a related angle. And according to our policy on embargoes
, we're free to do what we want in such a case--in other words, when someone sends embargoed info without first agreeing to an embargo. [Recognizing that our policy is atypical in the business-to-business marketing and PR world, I paused to consider whether we had given enough notice about the policy. If we hadn't, this could be an "undercover or surreptitious
" way of gaining info. I decided we had.]
So after the kids' bedtime, I set about to produce what I ended up calling an Exclusive (true for a few hours) on Gordon Wilson's promotion and board seat. But in my haste, and without bothering another editor for proofreading on the holiday, I botched the whole thing up.
First of all, the article completely failed to mention Jeff Clarke's new title. The former president and CEO of Travelport becomes executive chairman, responsible for "strategic investments," mergers and acquisitions, and corporate development. Clarke remains chairman of Orbitz Worldwide.
That's just sloppy of me.
And so was using the word "replaces" to describe Gordon Wilson's appearance after Greg O'Hara
's departure from the company's board of directors. O'Hara's seat has been empty for two months, and according to Travelport, Wilson will be using not his but rather a new chair. O'Hara's One Equity Partners seat will be filled at a later date. Bah, you might say, semantics! I can see that. Also, I think there's a connotation of "replaces" that does work fine in this instance. But that it could be interpreted another way means I should have chosen a different word.
Another problem was related to another company, and represents a direct violation of our ethics policy: "test the accuracy of information from all sources." Depsite having a board member from One Equity Partners, JPMorgan Chase's private equity arm, Rearden Commerce has no private-equity investment. I didn't fact-check that and yet included Rearden in the other companies' PE boat.
And while I'm at it, the comments about how PE firms haven't made back their buck back omitted a substantial exception, which is Amadeus. I thought about that after.
Sorry all about all that.
One also could argue I violated the "give the subjects of articles an opportunity to respond" rule by not calling each company mentioned in the article and asking for their response, but we have to draw the line somewhere to get a piece out the door, and I would consider the principal subjects of this article to be Travelport and the individual people mentioned--all of whom either provided the information or were contacted.
What did I learn from all this? Well for one thing, I still really like our rules.
Also, don't be so sloppy.
And with this post, take yourself less seriously.
Leave work at the office more.
And ... wait, this blog is taking too much time from the real news.
Get back to that.