It’s easy to be mean

New trend in business journalism: muckraking, innuendo, schadenfreude, snide remarks and cynicism.

From today’s New York Times (Fast Company takes a senseless beating, including plenty of editorial opinion from the writer) to most of the leading business magazines, we’re seeing exactly the same thing. The search for the scoop. The rush to demonstrate journalistic chops by refusing to accept anything at face value. The division of the world into good and bad, mostly bad.

The thing is, this is lazy journalism. It’s lazy to take potshots at the head of a car company or to search for yet another one of Martha Stewart’s bad habits. The reason it’s lazy is simple: if you get your facts even close to right, the reader is with you all the way. It’s easy to persuade people to be negative, easy to get them to pay attention to gossip, easy to defend yourself as a crusading journalist.

This, of course, is the same sort of laziness that led the very same magazines and papers to overdose on the hype just three years ago. Those stories were effervescent and glowing, but they involved just as little real understanding as today’s “exposes” do.

Do you know what’s hard? It’s hard to be inspirational. It’s hard to really understand the lessons (positive and negative) in a story and present them in a way that actually persuades, not just titillates.

Are you ready to rush out the newsstand to buy a magazine that shows us, once and for all, how some Boston real estate was insanely overpriced or how Larry Ellison isn’t actually as smart as this very same magazine told you he was two years ago? I’m not.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for an article that actually educates, or even better, inspires. Inspires me to do more, try harder, dig deeper, be more positive and persist longer. C’mon guys, I implore my colleagues, don’t be so lazy. We deserve better.

[go ahead and forward this article to your favorite magazine! Here are some email addresses:
Business Week