business

The Sarah Lacy/Mark Zuckerberg Fiasco Has Deep Meaning For Social Media.

I just got back from Death Valley and was hoping to share some deep thoughts about our future but everyone is yakking about the Zuckerberg/Sarah Lacy interview fiasco (and the Eliot Spitzer fiasco)so I’m going to hold off on the heavy stuff. Here’s my take on lessons we can learn from the interview at the SXSW conference.

When I was editorial page editor at Business Week in the 90s, I was called, literally, The Voice of Authority. Indeed, the entire magazine was advertised as The Voice of Authority. After launching the Innovation & Design channel and my blog, NussbaumOndesign, I now see myself as The Curator of Conversations. In the past, as a journalist, my role was that of learned authority. In the present, as a journalist, my role is that of learning participant, sometimes leading an open discussion on innovaton and design, but just as often listening and getting new information and analysis from convsersations.

Sarah Lacy made the mistake of playing an old, traditional, mainstream journalist role in her interview with Facebook’s

Zuckerberg. Lacy is an excellent journalist with some of the best contacts in Silicon Valley. Her articles in the past have been right on. She might even know more people in the Valley than Zuckerberg. And if you read the transcript of the interview, not just view it, Lacy asked all the right, probing questions. Unfortunately, in that interview, Lacy often played the role the authority and made herself the center of attention. She focussed only on Zuckerberg and didn't connect with the audience. She left them out of the conversation and didn't even allow questions until the very end of the interview. Big mistake. Today, you must always involve the audience in anything that takes place onstage. People want the interraction, they have the knowledge and--it's more fun.

Zuckerberg was doing all that. He did have his own conversation going on with the audience. He connected with them with talk of how Facebook helps people connect and communicate. He used words, such empathy, understanding, relationships, helping, trusting. He told stories of how Facebook helped people in Colombia and people in Lebanon. The audience of developers were one with Zuckerberg. Lacy didn't see that and didn't response when the audience began to assert itself and intervene.

There was also an issue of rudeness and conversational style. Lacy is an interruptor. Lots of journalists are. So are lots of New Yorkers and folks from LA. But Zuckerberg is not. He's shy, slow-talking and easily interrupted. Lacy's conversational style led her to control Zuckerberg and appear to be rude to him (even though the two know each other very well). The audience didn't like that. Again, Lacy was trying to control, not lead, dominate, not participate.

Then there was Lacy interviewing herself. She gave her own opinions because she sees herself as a Valley authority. She said "I think it's good to fire people" because so many ventures have people who see their employees as friends. Good point, but no one asked or cared.

Finally, Lacy attacked the audience when it began to protest. She talked of digg-style mob rule and challenged people to send her an email explaining why she sucked so badly in interviewing Zuckerberg. Well... here's why Sarah.

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