Journalism in the watch industry

Unbelievable to be writing a third time about the Ming x Massena collaboration – but here we are.

I have seen messages from journalists who are being contacted directly by a collaborator in this watch release, and they are being rudely chastised for ‘liking a meme’ about the faulty watch! These journalists are being accused of, in summary, surrendering their own impartiality, by showing support to memes about the watch.

Unfortunately none of these journalists are willing to share these private communications publicly, but if you are one of them and are happy to share, please reach out and I will add it here.

Here are a few examples of the memes I am talking about – credit to the accounts as shown:.

If you’re not sure what’s going on with this faulty Ming x Massena watch, you can check out this long thread or look at my previous two posts on this site.

Generally speaking, professional journalism associations, individual news organisations, and journalists themselves often have their own “code of ethics” or the institutions employing them have their own “code of conduct”. I am no expert but I’d imagine most share these basic principles:  truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability.

I looked further, and landed on the BBC’s website where they have a policy related to personal use of social media which you can see for yourself here. I will admit I was surprised to see just how restrictive their policy is, but it does make sense – here are a few relevant points:

  • Do not be drawn into ill-tempered exchanges, or exchanges that will reflect badly on you, or the BBC.
  • Do not reveal how you vote or express support for any political party.
  • Do not express a view on any policy which is a matter of current political debate or on a matter of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or any other ‘controversial subject’.

There was also further commentary on perceptions and signalling, which I will quote here:

Expressions of opinion on social media can take many forms – from straightforward tweets, posts or updates, sharing or liking content, following particular accounts or using campaigning or political hashtags. You should consider carefully every comment before posting.

BBC

Be wary of ‘revealed bias’, whether through likes or re-posting other posts, so that a bias becomes evident, and ‘inferred bias’ where a post is impartial but loose wording allows readers to infer a bias where there is none. Following social media accounts which reflect only one point of view on matters of public policy, politics or ‘controversial subjects’ may create a similar impression.

BBC

Back to the watch world, and watch journalists

So with the above information as context, it might be tempting to conclude that any watch journalist liking a meme is therefore NOT being impartial, or is indeed ‘revealing bias’. The thing is, a watch media company is not the BBC. Simple as that.

It is important to remember that ALL journalists (even the ones employed at BBC) do have a personal opinion. The difference is, the BBC isn’t a primary source of information for opinions; they exist to report facts and inform people of the truth.

Watch journalists on the other hand, arguably all carve out their own niche BECAUSE of their opinions, not despite them. While they might report on watches starting with facts like case size and power reserve capabilities, most watch journalists all create a reputation for themselves due to their unique opinions, and by sharing what they think in a manner that resonates with their readers.

People tend to digest watch journalism in context – so for example, as Hodinkee grew and went on to become an authorised retailer for many brands, they became less likely to report negatively on the brands they sell, because this inherently hurts their own business; any competent person can see the conflict of interest here, and Ben Clymer even spoke about this openly in an interview as well. Many people love Jack Forster’s writing anyway, and will read it because of his style – he may not be as critical as he would be if he wasn’t with Hodinkee – but people know this, and take it into account when reaching their own conclusions.

When it comes to memes, the reality is these accounts are a crude version of a news outlet! They simply take existing facts, and present them in a crude and sometimes offensive way, which is humorous… but the most relevant thing to note, is that the messages originate from truth. All of the above memes wouldn’t be popular or relevant, if the aforementioned watch had no alignment issues, or if the Ming founder didn’t take to the comments section of Horomariobro’s post to respond to the problems with the watch.

Further, I also believe that these meme accounts keep the industry honest, and call out all the things which ‘traditional’ media wouldn’t dare report on. Aside from individual owners and people like me, do you know of any other ‘mainstream’ watch media company that has covered the Ming misalignment issue? This is likely because of some unwritten rule within the industry about showing solidarity and sticking together – but the problem with this deafening silence is that it allows brands to potentially get away with too much. In fact, people like Gavin (from my previous post) would continue to get treated disrespectfully and there would be no accountability whatsoever.

Therefore, I think there is no basis for the chastisement of journalists who choose to like these memes – in doing so, they are simply displaying a sense of humour. Liking a meme does not signal hate for, or bias against the brand in question… it simply shows an acknowledgement of the truth behind the meme, and an appreciation for the humour in the meme. If that same brand went on to produce something else which was not faulty, but instead attractive and innovative, I have no doubt the same journalists would have no problem praising them too.

The meme accounts may be serving us regular humour and entertainment, but they also serve the greater good of keeping everyone honest and on their toes – advocating for silencing them and penalising support for them, is tantamount to stifling free speech and transparency.

What do you think?

F

PS. I had a chat with @chronolytical and @spanishrob about this topic, and just wanted to add shout outs to them for helping me think through this subject.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Mike Sandler says:

    It’s clearly Massena who contacted these journalists. He’s well known to quickly contact people who write reviews of Massena Lab releases when he doesn’t like what they say, in an effort to get them to “correct” the reviews. The thing is, he built his reputation as a moderator on early watch forums where he could ban anyone who disagreed with/criticized him. Thankfully online watch discourse has grown beyond his little echo chamber, but he’s trying to use the same heavy handed approach to engaging with anyone who doesn’t fawn over him. I hope people keep holding him accountable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kingflum says:

      I appreciate your comment Mike, anyone reading this will draw their own conclusions I’m sure 🙂

      Like

  2. Lazaro says:

    Massena was an extremely annoying individual that would ban multi-year old members who posted something against his personal interests or narrative. A very fragile person. Something sad, really, since I and many others enjoyed Timezone so much back in the day when that site was the most concurred online horological forum and a great source of horological information especially when there were some constructive disagreements. Probably his heavy-handed moderation led to the site’s demise… or comma more accurately. He’ll probably help Ming go that route, if Ming is not already on that path.

    Liked by 1 person

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