That morning, I was leaving the stage after speaking to the Cincinnati chapter of the
YPO--a much respected peer group for CEOs--and a pleasant, middle-aged woman approached. "May I ask you a question?" she said. She was polite, as people from Cincinnati tend to be. "Why do you in the media always lie?"
That's not a question we at Inc. get asked very often. Because Inc.'s mission is service, not news, and because we write for business founders like you--that is, people who are nobody's fools--we tend not to be lumped in with the "lyin' press." But as Jason Fried points out in his column this month (page 104), it's not always possible to keep business out of the political crossfire these days. Fried suggests clarifying in advance where you stand, which, as it happens, we did in this space last month. (In case you missed it, Inc. favors a tax-code overhaul that simplifies life for entrepreneurs; reform of arbitrary and pointless regulations, with the proviso that not all regulations are; and an immigration policy that encourages creative, hardworking people from around the world to come here and stay.)
So let me address whether we at Inc. are, as the lady from Cincinnati sweetly suggested, pathological liars. I hope this is a question that answers itself. Any journalist who makes stuff up or tries to substitute opinion for fact would quickly be out of a job at Inc. magazine. With our system of checks and balances, every article goes through layers of editors, each responsible for flagging passages that sound improbable, illogical, naive, or unclear. Complex stories get rigorously fact checked.
Yes, we sometimes make mistakes anyway. Those that bother me most tend to be cases in which a subject stretches the truth to make his or her story sound better, and we don't catch it. The criticism I hear most from readers, however, is that we don't explain how hard entrepreneurship is. To that one, all I can say is, we do. We write about it all the time. We've covered entrepreneurs for 38 years. We know how hard it is.
There is no denying that Americans' faith in the press is extraordinarily strained. But Inc. largely stands apart, I think. You don't need an ideological filter to know where we're coming from. Our sole agenda is to help your business take root and grow. So, let the lady from Cincinnati think what she thinks. Your success is the only consequence that counts.