HiFi Press - accountable? Honest, factual, verifiable reporting?
Lately, we have been discussing the effects of accountability, particularly the effects that careless talk can have on a growing quality brand such as Harbeth, which other manufacturers now possibly see in a predatory light.
I have my own view on the damage that the HI-Fi press has wrought over the past few years, to the point where "high end" audio is now perceived by John Doe as being wacky and outside the scope of the science that drives every other technological pursuit.
It appears to me that some audio journalists have completely lost any sense of the need to check their facts. Perhaps my memory is starting to fail, but the newest edition (Sept. 2010) of the UK journal Hi-Fi News contained some so-called information that could not possibly be more wrong both for the individual concerned and the commercial interests of the companies involved.
Page 118 contains a retrospective of the Spendor BC1 loudspeaker, an important milestone in the development of the BBC thin walled cabinet concept, as well as being an early example of the use of Bextrene as a cone material in its LF/Mid unit. In the article, it mentions Harbeth's founder Dudley Harwood and also it states that Derek Hughes (son of SPENcer and DORis) now owns and runs Spendor. To my knowledge, Derek (actually in a state of semi-retirement) has been working for a number of years alongside Alan at Harbeth on a number of important projects including development of the 12 inch low-frequency unit in the M40.1.
All this time, has Alan been unaware of Derek's secret role within a rival company? I somehow don't think so, as a brief reference to the registry at the British Government's Companies House where all Ltd. companies must by law make annual statements would reveal. I was able to ascertain, without too much difficulty, that the major investor in Spendor is in fact an Indian gentleman, resident in India. Mr. Derek Hughes is not shown as a shareholder or officer of the company. If I, in my amateur way, was able to determine these legal facts, I don't think it should have presented that much difficulty to an experienced journalist such as Ken Kessler or his boss, the editor at HiFi News. Or even the Publisher who should be super-sensitive to legal actualities.
While all of this may seem relatively insignificant, it is just the kind of point that a rival salesman could latch onto when accumulating "facts" with which to discredit a competitor. If the written press is to survive the pressures of online media, it needs to understand that casual mistakes are no longer acceptable. The written press needs to stand head and shoulders above its online counterparts by virtue of its honesty, integrity and accuracy. If you want the link to check the facts yourself just ask (I'm not sure if this will pass Moderation).
A duty to report the facts
Pluto: I fully agree with you that journalist (which includes audio journalist) have a duty to report the facts as accurately as they can reasonably and diligently verify them. And, with this duty they are accountable to the readers and the public for any inaccuracies that they write or report.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in reality. Where news is concerned the need to balance the duty to report and the speed in which to report the news is often used to justify shoddy research and getting up. While one could excuse the journalist who is reporting some ground breaking news, this could hardly be the case of the audio reviewer who usually has more time in his hands to do proper research to ensure the veracity of facts, and even the facility of getting in touch with the manufacturer over factual content.
The reluctance of many audio journalist to verify facts with manufacturers may well be because of the false premise that this might compromise the objectivity and independence of the audio journalist's evaluation or assessment of the product. In consequence, the unquestioning reader falls victim to the inaccurate reporting and if this reader does not conduct his own due diligence (and many do not but blindly rely on the review as 'gospel truth'), he might well be put off and decide against investing his hard earned money on this product. The manufacturer suffers one lost opportunity to sell a product because of careless or negligent journalism.
Do you believe everything that is reported in the tabloids? Or do you read the news with an astute sense of critical doubt, always applying commonsense and objectivity to question something that does not appear 'right', sensitive to draw a line between facts and opinion, reality from a subjective viewpoint?
I think that investing in audio equipment solely based on reviews is as dangerous as believing in everything that is reported in the tabloids. That is why we have not one but a pair of ears, discernment and good sense! Read a review by all means, but read it critically. At the end of the day, it is your ears that should be the judge. After all, your ears will have to face the music (pun intended) once you have unloaded your wallet!
Reviewers lost the will to write?
It is worth re-reading Alan Sircom's excellent explanation of the reasons that the audio press, along with most other publishing, lost the will to write thorough, searching reviews. You'd have thought that part and parcel of the same incident would have driven the need for the highest levels of accuracy. It is far harder in English law to prove libel if what has been published is actually true!
Originally Posted by denjo
Derek and the facts?
Seeing as we are talking about facts, accuracy etc., before we go any further with this it occurs to me to ask Alan Shaw to confirm the above....memory is sometimes not a co-operative ally.
Originally Posted by Pluto
Responsible journalism and false claims
With great respect, I disagree with Alan Sircom's view that Walker Wingsail would have such a significant impact in defanging specialist reviewers! If at all, it should have the opposite effect of ensuring that reveiwers were diligent with what they reported. Secondly, the case was not, as many perceived it to be, simply about fair comment in a review of the performance of the revolutionary Wingsail boat designed by John Walker.
Originally Posted by Pluto
The jury accepted the plaintiff's contentions that this was not a review of the boat as such but an allegation of false claims having been willfully made as to its performance. This was a question of fact for the jury to decide and when they did so decide, the outcome of the case was quite predictable. The plaintiff did not receive GBP 1.45 million but only received half that sum, after an out-of-court settlement.
Some might argue that the aftermath of the case was to cause test report journalism to die, and to lead journalist towards more subjective reviews as opposed to objective reviews (defense of fair comment becomes available for subjective reviews). I don't think one could conclude, just from this case, that it has led journalists to lose the will to write thorough, searching reviews.
While there are standards for Corporate Governance, Codes of Ethics for diverse groups of professionals and quasi-professionals, I think what is lacking is a universal Code of Ethics to govern responsible journalism and their duty to the readership and public, as important stakeholders.
Libel, Walker Wingsail and avoiding critical reviewing ....
Perhaps not, but it certainly has caused their publishers to stop publishing them. That's a fact - ask anyone close to that particular business. Go back to the heyday of hi-fi and you will see that the publication of critical reviews was not at all rare. These days, so a publisher tells me, an editor will usually be instructed to spike a critical review rather than run the risk of legal action.
Originally Posted by denjo
It is also possible that Walker Wingsail vs Yachting World was responsible in no small way for the rise of the ridiculous subjectivism that now pervades audio reviews. The more a reviewer describes how the product in question makes him feel warm and fuzzy as opposed to solid, authoritative comments on the way it performs when compared to similar products, the less likely a jury would be to find libelous damage in the content of a review.
Derek Hughes - getting the facts straight about working with Harbeth
To get the facts straight, I have not 'owned' the Spendor company since 1992 (eighteen years ago) when the company was transferred to the ownership of Soundtracs PLC.
Originally Posted by Pluto
I then worked part time for Spendor for a few years, and also when the company was bought by Phillip Swift. I retired from the company entirely in 2002, after which I met up with Alan at a HiFi show & have subsequently assisted him in some aspects of design. At no time has my work for Spendor and Alan overlapped.
Users opinions far more valid than reviewers or manufacturers
The subject has been covered in good length in the past, in this forum. The general idea was very close to the above comments. Allow me, please to put some few words -again- in this topic:
- Does anyone think that reviewers are independent and do what they do for hobby?
- Money has been a very strong pain in the ... Gentlemen, especially lately, within this international and absolutely artificial financial crisis.
- The most objective reviews are statistics originating from Hi-Fi users. There is the truth. I don't care a bit if Mr. Volkswagen himself will tell us about a car within 200 pages... I care about the results that come out of client answers... These can't be wrong, as to the average conclusions I mean.
- And I especially don't like the "cooked" ways that reviewers use to pass a rejection or a pushing of a product, having -Alas!- become real experts in camouflage!
These are some of the reasons that drew me completely out of buying any kind of Hi-Fi magazines, several years now. And, of course, these are all my very humble and personal opinion... With one phrase: " I don't buy or read what I don't trust"...
Thanks for reading,
Derek Hughes confirms.....
Derek - thanks for confirmation that what I believed to be the case was broadly accurate. While it would appear that HFN has no idea of your recent work with Alan, would a letter to the editor, advising him of the hack's errors, be worthwhile?
Originally Posted by derekhughes
Walker Wingsail cour decision ....
I realize the chances are slim, but does any member of the HUG by chance have a copy of the Walker Wingsail court decision that they could send me? I can get it through a legal database service here but it's costly. If you have a copy of the original Yachting World review as well, that would be even better. I'd very much like to read what was actually said and think about how it might have been interpreted by editors of hi-fi review magazines. Thanks.