Reporting failure requires balancing facts with making interpretations about why the failure occurred. Respectable bloggers and journalists temper their comments because inaccurate accusations and sensationalism unnecessarily harm the innocent and provide little value to readers.
With this in mind, yesterday I read one of the most irresponsible failure reports I've ever seen. Talking about B&H Photo, a major New York photography retailer, one user started this discussion on Flickr:
B&H going out of business?
[F]or days their tracking and history systems have been down, now their phone system reports they are having computer errors, so their system is down....
This is how it looks when a company is circling the drain....Seems like it's high time for the rumors to start flying.
THE PROJECT FAILURES ANALYSIS
This report committed several cardinal sins governing responsible reporting on failures:
1. Not accurate. Several follow-ups from readers pointed out that B&H systems are working properly. A minor web glitch may have occurred, but it's clearly not an ongoing or consistent problem.
2. Not objective. Personal soap boxing is more important to the writer than uncovering facts.
3. Clear rumor mongering. The writer explicitly wants to start negative rumors, despite the presence of facts contrary to his assertions and conclusions.
I contacted B&H's Director of Corporate Communications, Henry Posner, who summarized the matter:
The writer took one symptom, extrapolated to the most extreme and far-fetched possible conclusion, and ran with that. Calling it "irresponsible" is an insult to things that actually are irresponsible.
My take: The writer hit a momentary glitch and nothing more. Whether or not the problem was attributable to B&H is immaterial: these things happen all the time and pass quickly. And no, B&H is obviously not going out of business.
[Image via Roslyn High School. Disclosure: As a photographer, I love B&H's huge New York store. Check out my photos on Flickr. ]