Buying Wisdom?

Wisdom 2.0 founder Soren Gordhamer responds to "Buying Wisdom" by Richard Eskow (Fall 2012)

As the founder and host of Wisdom 2.0, I was saddened to read “Buying Wisdom: The Art of Mindful Networking” in the last issue of Tricycle. While the piece brought up some good points, I was disappointed that Tricycle would publish a piece with so many inaccuracies.

There were the small ones, like referring to our event as the Second Annual (it was the Third Annual) and getting the name of the community board wrong. Other errors were more severe, like the line: “conference’s sponsors included such tech corporations as Google, Facebook, Zynga, and PayPal—and it showed.” The writer then explains how “it showed” at the conference he attended. But Zynga, Paypal, and Facebook were not sponsors of the conference. We have no idea where the writer got this or why this was never checked.

It also included several quotes from Eric Schiermeyer that he never said. All the videos are on our website, so it is easy to go back and refer to what was actually said. Along with this, the author quotes from anonymous sources at the conference including what members wrote on a community board, yet never bothered to check with us before publication.

The article also states: “the conference organizers were themselves given to saying things like, ‘Every generation is different. Who cares how they’re different? Let’s meet them in that place where they’re different.’”

It turns out neither I nor anyone else involved with our conference ever said this quote. We might have made said something like this, but to list it as a direct quote was inaccurate.

In recent years, we have had stories on our work by The New York Times, Shambhala Sun, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times. From the article and from communication with staff afterward, we have never witnessed such little regard for accuracy and basic common decency in journalism.

You can learn more about what Wisdom 2.0 actually focuses on at www. wisdom2summit.com. There we have conference videos from previous years (all free, by the way), so you can see for yourself what the event is all about. We also have livestreamed our conference for free the last three years.

It is fine to disagree with our effort, but to attend our conference for free, then write an article paying little attention to the accuracy of quotes and imply we are in cahoots with numerous “corporate sponsors” (three of which listed were wrong) is disheartening. What could have been an important discussion about the future of this movement and how wisdom can more fully take root in the culture felt instead like a petty attack.

If our experience is true of the kind of journalism practiced there, Tricycle has lost its way. We hope the board, staff, and advisors will work to again make accuracy and common journalistic decency foundations of the magazine.

Soren Gordhamer
Founder and Host, Wisdom 2.0

Buying Wisdom Letters

The Author Responds

This flurry of charges seems intended to discredit the article, which Mr. Gordhamer claims included numerous errors or fabrications and gave a false impression of the conference. That’s simply not true. The only errors were minor, had no bearing on the substance of the article, and were promptly corrected in the online edition of Tricycle.

The real issue here seems to be my observation that corporate sponsors were visible at the event I attended. Mr. Gordhamer writes: “We have no idea where the writer got the idea” that Zynga, Paypal, and Facebook were Wisdom 2.0 sponsors. (Mr. Gordhamer doesn’t deny the sponsorship of Google, the other corporation I named.)

That statement seems disingenuous, since a) a posterboard sign from the 2011 Wisdom 2.0 conference named Facebook, among other corporations, as a “supporting sponsor” (I have a photograph of the sign); b) one of the publications Mr. Gordhamer praises included eBay—which owns PayPal—on its list of Wisdom 2.0’s “sponsors and presenters”; and c) another article he mentions favorably, from The Wall Street Journal, reported that Zynga executive Eric Schiermeyer was sponsoring a Wisdom 2.0 event scheduled three months after the one we attended.

Nevertheless, he says has “no idea where [I] got the idea” that these corporations were sponsors.

Were they visible at the conference? Executives from Facebook and Google were prominently featured at a number of presentations in February, including the pairing of a Google executive with famed author Eckhart Tolle for a “dialogue.” Mr. Gordhamer himself hosted the “Zynga Meets Zen” session described in my article.

Mr. Gordhamer also exaggerates other issues to make it seem as if the article is rife with errors. For example, he says the piece “included several quotes from Eric Schiermeyer that he never said.” That’s not true and can’t be true, since the piece contains only one full quote from Schiermeyer and not “several.” (We also quoted two isolated phrases that weren’t disputed.)

As for that single quote: As Mr. Gordhamer already knows, the phrases “What’s the worst that could happen?” and “That would be a good thing” were inadvertently attributed to Schiermeyer. We regret the error, which we promptly disclosed and corrected online, but it did not change the speaker’s meaning.
Mr. Gordhamer also says “nobody ever said this” about his own quote! I rephrased his spoken words for clarity. He nonetheless objected, so to accommodate him we used his unedited words online. He nevertheless quotes only my original language, ignores both the clarification we provided and the changes we made at his request, and then says only “neither me nor anyone involved in the conference ever said this quote.”

He knows what really happened. Why not say so?

A writer’s goal is complete accuracy, but sometimes one gets things wrong. When that happens, there’s a simple and common remedy: a correction. As Mr. Gordhamer knows, these incidental errors were promptly corrected online. He nevertheless continutes to express disappointment over minor matters which were addressed promptly.

He also says, “We have never witnessed such little regard for accuracy and basic common decency.” It’s hard to take that seriously. We’ve all seen how journalistic inaccuracy can terrify nations or start needless wars. That’s an extreme way to describe commonplace and minor errors. Does he really believe this—or, as seems more likely, is he trying to attack and discredit a writer and a magazine that criticized him?

To sum up: Mr. Gordhamer says he has “no idea” why some corporations were mentioned as sponsors, despite what was written in those articles he praised for their journalistic standards— and despite evidence like his own sign. He leaves out our prompt response to his expressed concerns. He also fails to mention that I praised several conference presenters and his own past work. And then he mourns a loss of “decency.”

Mr. Gordhamer also expresses anger that I accepted “free” admission and then made critical remarks. If he thinks a press pass guarantees favorable coverage, we really do have different views of journalistic ethics.

The article, with revisions, is on the Tricycle website. I can post additional documentation there if requested. Like Mr. Gordhamer, I also encourage interested readers to view the conference’s presentations—both those I criticized and those I praise—and draw their own conclusions.

Richard Eskow

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