I hope your Wednesday is going well. Welcome Back To Another Episode of Ask Ash, where I interview WatchMojo Founder & CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan and ask him questions about various topics, ranging from covering what is going on in the news, to giving career advice to students & entrepreneurs.
Today’s topic is the idea of transparency. Transparency is a topic that can be defined in many ways and have different meanings. Recently, Ash wrote an article that touches on this topic, and I thought it would be interesting to learn more about the level of transparency he expects from young professionals, and how much transparency is too much transparency.
Question: You recently wrote a fairly transparent and honest article about a lot of your recent experiences, which seems consistent with a lot of your articles, books, etc. Do you recommend that level of transparency and candor for/from young professionals and graduates? In other words, how much transparency is too much transparency?
Answer: I certainly don’t recommend this to anyone, or rather, everyone… but for some people, I think it makes sense. But let’s break this down into two subsets. One is writing/communicating in general, the other is the level of transparency/candor.
People cope in different ways, some write, others play music; some cook, others get tattoos. It’s a very unique and personal thing. I think communication is crucial because if you don’t let it out, you bottle up your emotions and that is never healthy. Communications can be verbal, written, and so on… but for me, writing helps a lot. I write for myself and for younger versions of myself (i.e students, recent graduates, and young professionals). I have worked in media for 20+ years, I don’t need a job and while I remain respectful and diplomatic, I am not out to offend anyone. A young professional does not have the same luxury or privilege, so no, this is not something I recommend to all because people may say they have a thick skin, but most people can’t handle constructive criticism
The next part is the transparency part. Yes, I will write about my experiences. As a media professional, I know more than I want to know about defamation, libel, slander, etc., and know not to cross those lines… but I don’t have any qualms about being specific if it makes sense and if I feel it adds context that is needed. I don’t mind sharing my mistakes and lessons… everything I do (including WatchMojo’s whose vision/mission is to inform and entertain) and that usually involves trusting people.
Now that said, when you name people publicly, you are taking a risk so all factors being equal, you ought to be careful with what and how you say it. Yes, the truth is an absolute defense in defamation in the US and parts of Canada, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be careful. When I published my third book, The 10-Year Overnight Success – an Entrepreneur’s Manifesto: How WatchMojo Built the Most Successful Media Brand on YouTube, it was about the YouTube revolution, but through the WatchMojo lens. Thus, it is my journey as a reluctant entrepreneur. It was deeply personal, and so I named hundreds of people with whom I crossed paths. There was nothing defamatory per se, but many were surprised by just how transparent I was.
But let’s say I did say something about someone who took offense. Notwithstanding that the truth is an absolute defense, the reality is one who makes an accusation of defamation ought to be careful what they wish for. For one, there is something called the Streisand Effect:
“Mike Masnick of Techdirt coined the term in 2005. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress the California Coastal Records Project’s photograph of her residence in Malibu, California, taken to document California coastal erosion, inadvertently drew further attention to it in 2003. Attempts to suppress information are often made through cease-and-desist letters, but instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity, as well as media extensions such as videos and spoof songs, which can be mirrored on the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks. The Streisand effect is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware that some information is being kept from them, they are significantly more motivated to access and spread that information.“
In other words, if I said “Bill Smith did so and so,” and a few people see it… but then Bill Smith sends me a lawyer’s letter, that will actually call more people’s attention to it, for one. Second, by sending a lawyer’s letter, even if done “without prejudice,” then you are almost giving coverage to the recipient to publicize the letter. That then almost becomes a bit of a pandora’s box because other information will ultimately come up during discovery and depositions, assuming the matter isn’t dropped and continues to march towards a trial.
So in the Bill Smith example, if I’m asserting that Bill wronged me by cheating me, is there a chance that Bill is also a liar and a thief?
When Ronan Farrow was about to go live with the Harvey Weinstein stories, Weinstein threatened to sue Farrow and any publication who published the stories. Given what is happening in the world, you have to be tone-deaf and stupid to draw more attention to something, for one… and then threaten legal action. That doesn’t mean that one can write anything, you have to stick to the truth and balance things out to ensure there’s a benefit to society by sharing your story. In my case, I have been a student and teacher all my life, having written about my experiences, so it’s par for the course.
Lastly, if you want to submit questions to Ash directly, you can do so by clicking the link here: https://watchmojo.com/suggest/AskMojo%20-%20WatchMojo’s%20founder%20Ash