Pros and Cons of the “he-said-they-said”

The article posted by Chris Taylor on Mashable ( accounts the errors that Tesla has made in this battle between the New York Times and Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla motors.

Taylor makes the claim that in their attempt to defend the Model S, Tesla managed to dig themselves a deeper hole as journalists and Musk went back and forth in the classic case of “he-said-they-said.” Taylor’s advice to Musk in the end of his article is to forget about what the journalists are saying and prove them wrong by placing more reviewers behind the wheel of the Model S; stop arguing about the reviews of the first.

Are there benefits to this exchange between Musk and the Times? At the very least, the story got some attention, but is it entirely negative?

Regardless of whether this attention was negative or positive, was it Tesla’s responsibility to dispute the review to begin with or should the publishing be left up to the journalists as Don Frommer suggests? (last article)


6 Responses to “Pros and Cons of the “he-said-they-said””

  1. The only benefit I can see in the tennis match between Musk and the Times is that the spat itself creates more publicity – and any publicity is good publicity, right? I don’t think so in this situation. I think that the biggest issue with a brand that in so quick to jump into the press ring itself is that it obviously has it’s own interests driving it’s press releases. Customers might believe that they are only trying to bolster their reputation and not necessarily looking into what went wrong with the reviewer’s car. It appears childish. Of course, they’re saying he lied – bold statements. It may be harder to get unbiased reviewers afterwards for fear of being hounded my monitors or chased afterwards if the review goes sour for them, truthfully or not. I agree that flooding the news with more reviews would’ve probably been the better solution – calm, unbiased, scientific, honestly positive reviews. Telling your reviewer you’re logging their speed beforehand also probably would be better for reputation at the end of the day too.

  2. To answer your questions:
    I believe that there are benefits to the exchange between Musk and the New York Times. If the Tesla has flaws, the public should know what they are (as the New York Time reveals), but Musk should also defend these criticisms– after all, the Tesla is his creation and he knows it best. Journalists should also chime in.

    On another note, I thought that the mashable article itself didn’t do an adequate job of explaining the problem. While the writing was creative and fun, I had a difficult time understanding the issue. I needed to google the connection between Musk, Tesla and NYT to fill in the gap. However, this article is from the blog. Do blogs have the responsibility of providing all of the facts? Or since it is less formal- can they be more ambiguous for the readers to complete individual research?

  3. I definitely think there are benefits but unfortunately I think those benefits are for the NY Times. After reading some of the other related articles-Musk’s travel log data and Broder’s response to that data- I realized that “raw data” isn’t necessarily as damning as it seems. Broder was able to calmly explain himself and Tesla, as a company, was the side that seemed petty. What is more interesting is that I doubt the review did much to harm the car’s reputation. The drama that unfolded around it actually served to highlight many features of the Tesla East Coast Supercharger that many probably wouldn’t look up out of their own volition. On principle, I don’t think that Tesla should be denied entry to the publishing realm. Journalism is an form of communication. However, Musk probably should have done some more recon before he decided to fire back so quickly; his responses were just too easily refuted and seemed ignorant of what actually happened. Maybe this kind of knee-jerk journalism isn’t actually valuable in the published realm?

  4. Much like when John Viera spoke about his journalism experiences, there is good journalism and bad journalism. I DO feel that it is the journalist’s job to bring up counter arguments in order to get the whole story. However, I also feel that this should be done in a way that doesn’t feel malicious.furthermore, it is the interviewee’s duty to keep a cool head. Either way, it feels like someone here fell short of those goals. I have no insight as to whom, (maybe both?) but there were definitely some bad vibes here.

  5. I noticed first off that the article doesn’t go into depth right away about what the actual issue is or how this car even works. I found myself confused off the bat because the entire article seemed to be based around knowing the background of a situation that happened. I didn’t know what the car was specifically until halfway through the article and I had no idea about these events. I felt tossed back and forth and couldn’t really follow what the actual point was. This article seems to be written more like a gossip column – for the people who follow the story and know the content, not for people just dropping in to read the news. They don’t try to get the reader up to speed and they even use quotes from twitter which to me is equally as gossipy, using this guys own words against him. It really just seems like drama! Overall I just didn’t get much out of this article.

  6. A quick comment about this one, and happy to discuss further on Friday: This episode mainly demonstrates how Elon Musk refuses to play by old media rules — as most corporate CEOs and the NYT still do — but plays instead by new media rules. His megaphone is equal in volume to the NYT’s in the world of Twitter and the blogosphere. That he soured his relationship with the Times doesn’t matter. He doesn’t need the Times to communicate with his base. This fracas allowed him to rally Tesla fans to his defense and keep Tesla in the news cycle. No harm done.

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