The last Lacy/Zuckerberg post

OK, that’s likely a lie. But I just got back to New York and belatedly watched the Aust360 video of Sarah Lacy after The Event. Once again, she’s emblematic of bigger problems in our craft: She refuses to hear the feedback she got. Worse, she doesn’t seek it out. This is one of those moment when I see a mirror — a mirror of my own past — and realize how blogging has changed me. Like her, back in the day, I hated getting letters from readers (probably because many were scrawled in crayon, covering sheets of paper with writing at 0, 90, 180, and 270 degrees, and spotted with drool). But with blogs, I had to learn to deal with feedback, criticism, and correction and then I learned the benefit of seeking it out. We hear none of that from Lacy, only the belief that she knows her job and we don’t:

: LATER: Note that unlike his BW colleague, Jon Fine is asking his audience for advice and questions before his panel.

  • Tim

    She’s 32 and speaks/acts like she’s 13.

  • http://www.silverbrowonfood.com Silverbrow

    “It’s ok because we broke a lot of news” – you were the news luv

    Talk about misplaced self-importance

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    With some time to reflect, Sarah Lacy says…

    “I made the mistake of coming to a developers conference.”

    “Someone like Mark doesn’t talk about APIs; he talks about business strategy.”

    “A core group of people in the back of the room got so angry, [they] probably ruined SXSW for getting people that high profile again.”

    “Frankly, we broke a lot of news so I feel fine about it as a journalist.”

    “The audience was laughing and with us for 48 minutes and then everyone turned, and we were like, ‘what happened?’”

    “I’m one of the only women reporting on tech; I get this constantly…. Guess what? I’m still employed. Obviously some people enjoy what I do.”

    “I’m the fall guy,” but what happened with the audience definitely didn’t sit well with Zuckerberg.

    “I’ve had way worse shift written on a massive scale written about me before… It’s the price of being high profile unfortunately.”

    “I felt great about how it went.”

    “I’d like to see someone else try it; it’s not as easy as it looks.”

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    screwed up this quote… should be

    “I’ve had way worse shit on a massive scale written about me before… It’s the price of being high profile unfortunately.”

    (This refers to her high profile, previously it was Mark’s.)

  • http://www.patthorntonfiles.com Pat Thornton

    You nailed it.

    She is an old-school journalist, unwilling to accept criticism or admit mistakes. Modern journalism is about having a conversation. She is unwilling to do that.

    That was the ultimate mistake that SXSW made. Lacy is just not the right fit for a conference of Web 2.0 people. She is so Web 1.0. She works for a very Web 1.0 company.

    Criticism is part of being a journalist. I’ve gotten angry calls and e-mails before, but I’ve also gotten positive ones as well. It comes with the territory.

  • Al

    So much discussion about this everywhere, but everybody’s missed the real point.

    If THIS is the biggest thing to come out of SXSW, what does that tell you?

    This story is the classic example of the “self-licking ice cream cone” that I’ve seen for so many years, is at its all-time worst now, and shows up in the “technology for technology’s sake” stuff that we see all day, every day.

    I truly hope that not just everybody who was there in Austin, but the geek world in general wakes up on this one and gets that message.

  • http://www.BillKosloskyMD.com/ Bill K.

    Jeff, I just finished listening to Winer’s mp3 interview with Scoble about this. Here are my observations:

    First, I think it’s not right to place the blame entirely on Lacy. Anyone who’s had to speak in front of an audience on a regular basis knows that you can have an audience turn against you, and in most cases you don’t know why. You can stop right there and begin polling the audience, but then you’re wasting the time of the others who want you to continue to be on topic.

    Scoble said that it’s partially Zuck’s fault and the conference organizers. They weren’t sensitive to what the audience wanted either. They shouldn’t have had a business-oriented interview scheduled.

    To Lacy’s credit she sought out Scoble and others to find out what went wrong. Then Zuck agreed to do a Q&A session, so he should be given kudos.

    I think it would be wrong to go entirely the other way and do something like display the IRC chat or Tweets on a screen behind the speakers. The crowd mentality is not always a considerate one.

    Scoble himself said that he wasn’t interested in going to this interview, because he knew if something really interesting was going to be announced, he would have been briefed on it. When he showed up, people were leaving because they thought it was boring.

    Generally speaking, it’s bad form for an interviewer to go on at length about what a close relationship they have with the interviewee or any other major figure. The right thing to do is to ask those questions you think the audience would ask, and then just sit back and listen, or else you shut out the audience. I think that’s the reason they felt bored.

    I think you can discuss ways to make conferences better without targeting Sarah–we’re all guilty of these mistakes at one time or another.

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    To Lacy’s credit she sought out Scoble and others to find out what went wrong. Then Zuck agreed to do a Q&A session, so he should be given kudos.

    Definitely to her credit, yes.

    In the clip shown here, she contends that nothing went wrong and we don’t understand her job. There is nothing to find out. She presents the criticism as “all in the game” and totally to be expected when you are a woman reporting on tech. Happens all the time to her, she says. She does not say, or give any indication at all that she intends to check her perceptions against others who were there to see what went wrong. From her point of view it went fine, news was broken, and a few geeks who wanted to discuss apps spoiled it for everyone else.

    Shouldn’t we credit these arguments as hers too, Bill?

  • http://www.BillKosloskyMD.com/ Bill K.

    Jay, you’re right. I didn’t address what Jeff’s post was really about.

    Sarah’s attempted spin in this video shows that at that point she still was clueless at why her interview bombed. It would have been closer to the truth for her to say it was a no-news interview with a guy full of PR speak, but then that would be blaming Zuck. It’s just that there seems to be a lot of unnecessary piling on at her expense.

    I think everyone should read Scoble’s blog for his take on this kerfuffle, including Sarah. He’s seems the most even-minded, IMHO.

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Still was clueless at why her interview bombed…

    I agree. I also think the interview, which I watched on video, is not as bad as some of the reactions led me to expect. And yes, we should read Scoble, who speaks from experience and direct knowledge of the channels involved.

    But Jeff’s point, I believe, is that you encourage piling on when you react immediately with “we stand by our story” and give the impression that you have nothing to learn, but only wish to instruct your critics in the way journalism works. As he wrote, “the belief that she knows her job and we don’t” is itself an extreme reaction.

  • http://videopancakes.com Mary

    She can’t see outside of any of this, which is surprising b/c so many people are giving her opportunities. Looks like an ego issue.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Jay,
    What the video can’t give you was the murmuring in the room and the two-step ovation when Zuckerberg told her to do her job and ask questions. My point: She was getting feedback, lots of it, early on. All she had to do was listen. That she didn’t was all the greater insult to the audience. It was worse than a one-D video can display. It was incredible.

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  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Fair enough, Jeff. That undercurrent isn’t there on the video.

    What I meant is that Zuckerberg comes through at times, despite all that. I have a much clearer “image” in my mind now of how he approaches things as CEO and face of the brand, and a partial feel for his personality. At one point he says, “why do we need these big organizations, if we want to take coordinated action?” (or words to that effect) and I saw Zuckerberg the creative destroyer emerge for a moment. There were other things like that. So Sarah was not entirely unsuccessful in rendering him less opaque. You have seen him in these settings before, I have not.

    I started disliking Lucy’s interview when she cut him off when he was talking about people using Facebook to organize resistance to paramilitaries in Colombia. She failed to dig into how Zuckerberg had received that news, and assimilated it into his awareness of what Facebook “is.” I wanted a lot more on how he thinks politically about Facebook, which is after all an organizing tool. Then when she stepped on his announcement of launching in France, it seemed like she was competing with him, when possibly she was just anxious that this “news” get out. On it went from there.

    To me the weirdest moment in the clip is when Sarah says that it’s not as easy as it looks. Who said it was easy to interview Mark Zuckerberg in front of 2,000 fans and tech enthusiasts? No one. I have read quite a few reactions and accounts, and I didn’t find anyone suggesting that it looked easy, was easy, could be done by random fan just as well. What some of the more thoughtful observers have said is more the opposite: this was a harder assignment than she understood.

  • http://www.BillKosloskyMD.com/ Bill K.

    Jay, I think it’s a mistake to think that a keynote is about journalism. But what do I know, you could tell me.

    Guy Kawasaki is being acknowledged as having done a great job in his interview of Balmer who is prone to PR speak like Zuck. From a recent mp3 interview with Winer (he’s prolific these days), Guy says that the first priority of a keynote is to be entertaining, not delivering facts. Being boring is the biggest sin.

    Maybe it’s more productive to talk about how conferences in general could be improved, which was the gist of Jeff’s first post on this topic. I’ve walked out in frustration plenty of times during a session because I felt my time was being wasted.

    As far as the “we stand by our story” aspect, I have higher expectations for a splash screen story in the NY Times then I do for some tech conference keynote or the post mortem rant. I guess we have different sensitivities for what we consider “extreme.”

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Deliver facts? Who asked for that?

    Journalism isn’t like “cross the Ohio River and you’re in Kentucky.” The boundaries around it are a lot more nebulous. What counts as journalistic territory isn’t always clear. But whether we call it “journalism” or “keynote” or “conversations with Zuckerberg,” it was supposed to be an act of live communication among three parties: Zuckerberg, Sarah Lacy and the audience.

    Jeff’s observation, I thought, was that she got the relationships wrong, Hers to Zuck, hers to the audience, the audience’s relationship to Zuck, hers to the event, and to the backchannels. This made it unfun. In reply to criticism that she got the relationships wrong, she said she got the journalism right and “broke news.”

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  • http://www.grassshackroad.com mike mcallen

    Well she doesnt get it or she does because I never heard of her before this. I listened to TWIT and heard Scobles comments. Then I listened to the interview. Well I tried to listen…. she is pretty annoying.

  • http://gravitymedium.com/ John Proffitt

    Oh, dear. Sarah Lacy posted an article in Business Week in which she rehashes the SxSW thing. It’s almost as embarrassing as the interview itself. I left a comment there, but I don’t know if it will be published, so I’ll include it here…

    http://tinyurl.com/38r9bt

    MY COMMENT LEFT AT BW:
    You would have been better served to never mention the SxSW event again, and just let it rest. People forgive and forget.

    But you couldn’t let it rest.

    Instead, you write an article that points a finger at the industry and says “Meh. They’re boring. Nothing’s happening.”

    Then you throw in a vignette about a smart and sassy up-and-coming female business journalist that sucks up to you. Seriously?

    The major criticism of your interview was that it was all about you, you, you. It was wall-to-wall Sarah Lacy and the subject of the interview never made an appearance.

    So your response to the negative SxSW reviews is to… write more about yourself?

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