March 9 2008

How Not To Handle Your Critics

SXSWThe SXSW conference, a music/movie/interactive conference held once a year in Austin, TX, is happening at the moment, and, as always, it’s filled with all sorts of Internet goodness. Most of it boring to the masses, exciting to the web 2.0 crowd.

Normally a keynote address sets the tone of a conference, most of them make you sleepy, and some are a good chance to catch up on your text messages. Today at the SXSW keynote, a conversation between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Business Week writer Sarah Lacy, all hell broke loose.

Ms. Lacy, who has a pre-existing relationship with Mr. Zuckerberg from previous interviews, turned it into a chat filled with statements that Zuckerberg could merely confirm, and barely any questions were asked. This got to such a point that even Mr. Zuckerberg inquired if Ms. Lacy would be asking any more questions, to which the crowd cheered. My co-worker at Mashable, Kristen Nicole, has a first hand recount of the keynote since she was in attendance.

So why do I bring you a non-first hand opinion on this matter? It was fascinating to watch unfold in real time on my Twitter feed. With the interconnectivity of people nowadays, I was able to watch the rising ire of people in attendance at the little tête à tête as they repeatedly sent out Tweets about how poor a job Ms. Lacy was doing, at how the crowd was starting to grumble, and how they burst out in anger at her incredibly poor job she was doing.

Lacy Twitter ReplyWith the keynote over, and bloggers filling pages with their obvious disgust with a job poorly done, Ms. Lacy finally decided to address her critics via her Twitter account. (pictured to the right)

Seriously, is this how a professional journalist now replies to criticism of her work? “Screw all you guys”? That’s just lovely. When even your interviewee calls you on your lackluster job in front of a room full of people craving more, you obviously have done something wrong. To mouth off to people criticizing your job, while momentarily satisfying, shows yet another serious lapse in judgment on her part.

You did a bad job, own up to it, write a piece about how you wish it had gone better, how you misjudged the room, or what people wanted from it. To turn it around and tell off the people who are calling you to the carpet is immature, unprofessional and shameful to your reputation. I really had no opinion on what happened today as I wasn’t there, but this is for everyone to see, and no matter what happened, this was not the way to handle it.  I will never claim I am a perfect journalist, but I always own up to my mistakes, and rule #1 is always take a deep breath before responding to the public about your work.  Take notes, Ms. Lacy, you need them.

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