Friday, September 2, 2011

Blaming the Press As a Sign of Decline

When a business or political group blames its operational problems on the news media, it is almost always suffering from internal friction that is worse than it appears on the surface.

Two current examples are Groupon and the government of Syria. Groupon is planning an IPO even as its business collapses. It was forced to amend its prospectus after news reports pointed out it was relying on a misleading accounting metric. Subsequently, the company’s CEO lashed out at the news media, blaming news reports for its “Ponzi scheme” reputation, a reputation that seems to be more likely to be the result of its own business plan and public statements. The government of Syria yesterday blamed its problems on news channel al-Jazeera, which it claimed had fabricated stories about mass murders, torture, and a top official’s resignation. The Syrian regime, though, has been spinning stories about battles with armed gangs for months. No one else has yet seen any of these armed gangs, though, and that, not the news media, is the main reason why people are asking the government about the thousands of dead and missing people. In either case, there is enormous internal stress that hasn’t publicly surfaced yet, but that we know of because of the statements pointing the finger at the media.