business news in context, analysis with attitude

As the torrent of email continues about the global warming debate, I got a highly critical one from MNB user John Bowler that particularly concerned me:

For all the business savvy you display each day, I can‚t believe that you lace your very good website with so much very unwise political rancor, nearly every day. You’re a grade-A liberal. You lean a little left. We get it.

It’s your website. You will, and should, do what you want with it. But, for someone so well-versed in the art of selling, you sure risk losing a lot of audience. You’ve been losing me, day by day. I try laughing at you, but it’s getting harder all the time. Your comments are often not even relevant…

Think about it. Reverse the roles in your mind, and see how you’d like it.

I shouldn’t care. I should let you keep mouthing off. I should let you restrict your success. Besides, I’m opinionated, too.

You value ‘word of mouth’? What I hear is that your politics are unnerving and unprofessional. And I live in Massachusetts! Yike!

Your points are all good ones and, believe it or not, I think about this stuff all the time.

What’s interesting is that when these sorts of issues come up (“erupt” is more like it), readership goes up. I understand that some people don’t want to read such things on a site that they turn to for “business news,” but I think we may define “business” differently. After all, on a day when the NY Times has Frito’s environmental efforts designed to deal with climate change on the front page, the issue seems to be one that is both personal and business-oriented. So it seems to me that businesses need to stake out a position here, because their consumers have. Indifference may not be an option, at least not if consumers – as I believe – increasingly may be making buying decisions based on retailers and manufacturers have positioned themselves on these issues.

Now, I have three choices. In this case, I could choose to side with those who believe that global warming is a scam...but I can’t do that, even if 95 percent of my audience felt that way, because I couldn’t live with myself. (And there have been plenty of issues over the years on which I have been a lonely minority. Fine by me.) Or, I could choose to take the safe position, which would be no position at all...which is what most sites would do. Except that I think one of the core values that MorningNewsBeat brings to the table is that it does take positions, it does avoid being vanilla, even at the risk of annoying some folks. The third choice, obviously, is the one I have chosen – to be honest about my opinions, try to be specific about my reasoning, and give pretty much anyone who disagrees with me the chance to state their case. I think, in the end, this is the better choice. It encourages dialog, and hopefully can even be entertaining and illuminating. (I haven’t done a word count, but I’m pretty sure that the amount of space given to other people’s opinions on this issue is greater than that given to mine.) Is anybody changing anyone’s mind? Probably not. But without conversation, nobody learns anything.

I will say that this is the first time that I’ve heard anyone describe my politics as “unprofessional” and “unnerving,” and I would suggest that my politics are probably a lot more complicated than you think. On some issues, I’m probably pretty liberal. On others, I can be pretty conservative. And on some, I can be almost libertarian. On most issues, though, I’d like to believe that I am thoughtful and willing to listen...and I’ve always tried to work from the premise that the MorningNewsBeat audience is the same way, or more so.

One other quick note on this general subject.

I received one – just one – email from an MNB user who thought my use of colorful metaphor was over the line. In this case, it was when I described one group as being like an ostrich, with its head in the sand….”or its head someplace else.” He thought that this language was insulting the demeaning and impolite, and therefore beneath me.

While I appreciate the comment, I’ve always sort of liked the use of colorful metaphors…especially in cases like this one. As for being impolite….well, sure. It wasn't meant to be polite.

I would point out that a number of the people who believe that global warming is not a problem use the word “scam” to describe the opposition viewpoint. “Scam,” in the dictionary, is described as “a scheme for making money by dishonest means.”

That doesn’t sound all that polite to me. That sounds like, I don't know, a kind of slander against not just the beliefs, but the motivations of the people who disagree with them. They are calling them dishonest.

That, in my view, is what cheapens the debate. Not colorful metaphors.

KC's View: