Ryan Holiday has gamed prominent media outlets for some time now, but on the eve of the release of a new book he’s written, says that he is exposing everything that is wrong with new media and the way news is reported in the internet era.
Of course, Ryan Holiday’s “media manipulator” shenanigans are about as old as the news itself. While the protege of professional jerk Tucker Max purports to be exposing some new and horrifying trend in reporting, folks have been using the frenzy surrounding breaking news to create confusion and essentially be dicks probably since illuminated manuscripts have been issuing forth from multi-colored inkwells.
Holiday’s prank hinged largely on an excellent service that really does not deserve the bad press. Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is an email list that connects reporters with humans who have information. The thrice-daily emails send out a list of press queries seeking people who can comment on a story — mothers, businesspeople, mothers who are businesspeople, hairdressers, cattle farmers — it’s a fantastic idea to allow a reporter to cast a wide net for comment.
(Is the service an easy target for liars? Of course, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work brilliantly 99.9999% of the time.)
So Holiday subscribed, lied to reporters, and exploited the nature of the service in order to make a dubious point that bloggers and new media sources will “print anything.” Which totally ignores the fact that much of reporting and news is based on the fact that we trust people are telling the truth when they can lie, and that not every piece of information can be fact-checked. This isn’t an example of lazy reporting necessarily — if someone answers a press query on fertility treatments, their story can’t be “fact-checked” due to HIPAA laws. Is that reporter lazy for still running comment?
Holiday said of his shenanigans in an interview with Forbes:
“I knew that bloggers would print anything, so I thought, what if, as an experiment, I tried to prove that they will literally print anything? Instead of trying to get press to benefit myself, I just wanted to get any press for any reason as a joke.”
Shankman has since addressed the tomfoolery on his blog, explaining that his service does not replace fact-checking where possible. He says:
“Let’s be clear: This idiot (Ryan Holiday, the liar,) did this for one reason, and it wasn’t anywhere NEAR as altruistic as ‘an experiment.’ He wrote a book on how to lie and get in the media, and he was promoting it. End of story. Want more proof? You know what this guy did before he wrote this book? HE WORKED FOR TUCKER MAX, the man who’s written multiple books on how to lie to get laid. Enough said.”
Shankman quotes on Redditor, who commented:
“I don’t think this was an ‘experiment,’” wrote one commenter on Reddit. “I think it’s awful to reward liars like this with the attention they want in the first place.”
Among the outlets duped in Holiday’s prank were the New York Times, MSNBC, and CBS, all of which have posted retractions or removed entire stories in light of his admission.
Well, I made the New York Times…wish it was for better reasons. nyti.ms/LZ8jbL
— Ryan Holiday (@RyanHoliday) July 19, 2012