Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Confronting Shoddy Reporting at Forbes.com

Mr. Tom Post
Managing Editor
Forbes

Mr. Bruce Upbin
Managing Editor
Forbes

Dear Mr. Post and Mr. Upbin:

I would like to share our concerns regarding a pattern of factually inaccurate and slanted postings about Koch Industries by several bloggers on Forbes.com.

In the past, Forbes magazine has covered us responsibly and in keeping with its well-earned reputation for having the highest standards in journalism. However, in recent months, some Forbes.com bloggers have disregarded that professionalism altogether. Here are a few specifics:

  • Blogger Rick Unger has accused Koch of plotting to “kill public unions” in Wisconsin and of concluding a “secret deal” with the Governor to purchase state-owned power plants. The first of these stories is a repetition of misleading and debunked claims originally published in the left-wing magazine, Mother Jones. Unger’s other post is a demonstrably false assertion that we have set straight publicly numerous times. To date, Mr. Unger has neither acknowledged his mistakes nor corrected his postings.
  • On several occasions, blogger Brendan Coffey has either repeated false accusations about Koch made by Robert Greenwald, a progressive activist, or has trumpeted Mr. Greenwald’s publicity stunts. In one posting, Coffey relayed as fact Greenwald’s false claim about Koch involvement with the Keystone XL pipeline. In another, he touted a flash mob that gathered to deface Lincoln Center and that had to be dispersed by police.  And in a third he simply reposted an activist video and reprinted their press release.
  • In her blogs, reporter Clare O’Connor has routinely disparaged Koch, describing it as “secretive,” “notorious,” and “the Kochtopus.” Most recently, she posted a misleading piece titled, “Koch Brothers Back Their First 2012 Presidential Candidate.” From the headline, readers could quickly infer that KochPAC had contributed to Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign, Bachmann for President, rather than her congressional campaign, Bachmann for Congress. We pointed this out to Ms. O’Connor and yet the misleading and intellectually dishonest headline remains posted under the Forbes imprimatur.
  • Just this week, in a post titled “This is the Way the World Ends,” blogger Martin Sosnoff wrote that “the USA would fall apart [and] the Koch brothers win out in diminishing the role of government,” an outcome he described as worse than “a nuclear holocaust.”

We note that Lewis D’Vorkin described the Forbes.com approach as “journalism rooted in the conviction that success results from free enterprise, the entrepreneurial spirit, smart investing–and living a life beyond the mere accumulation of dollars.” D’Vorkin calls this the “Content Continuum – the notion that journalists, the audience, and marketers, too, can all publish content on our print and digital platforms as long as each is clearly identified and labeled.” But if that approach abandons accuracy and accountability, as several of the bloggers covering us have done, how can readers rely on the veracity of anything being presented by Forbes.com?

We have expressed our concerns to Forbes editors and Forbes.com editors, and have been surprised to hear them say that the blogs are published without prior review by an editor. Nevertheless, they are being published under the Forbes banner and the endorsement of validity that carries. This is especially troubling because it means that neither the subjects of those articles nor readers can have any confidence in what’s being published at Forbes.

I would be grateful for any thoughts or remedies you might suggest. In the meantime, we are obliged to point out these falsehoods and inaccuracies to readers and set the record straight ourselves on KochFacts.com.

Sincerely,

Philip Ellender
President, Government and Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

cc: Dan Bigman, Executive Editor

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