Can you believe what you read?
CAN YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU READ?Even When It Comes From Well Known Journalist?
“Don’t believe anything you read and only half of what you see” was advice given to me by my grandfather on many occasions. After a couple of decades of living life, I’ve come to fully understand the wisdom of those words. With the advent of the internet, email, blogging and print-on-demand this fatherly advice is truer today than ever before.
Specific to Blue Maumau, we’ve all come to understand that much of what is ‘published’ within this venue’ is insightful, informative, and often entertaining, peppered by a fair amount of venting, speculation, opinion, hyperbole, the promotion of personal agendas and totally void of all editorial integrity. The challenge for readers of venues like BlueMaumau comes down to separating fact from fiction. One component to this separation is simply who wrote what.
I’ve come to expect, in my opinion that:
- Stan Turkel will quietly slip in, post an informatively entertaining piece on lodging and slip out just a quietly.
- Paul Steinberg will be articulate, accurate, and informative, while occasionally allowing his experience to form a hypothesis which may not be fully supported by the evidence, perhaps as the result of occupation.
- Bob Frankman will be funny, demand collaboration, state his opinions, occasionally antagonize without becoming embroiled in the controversy.
- Joe Mathews, will be fair, balanced and informative and participate too little.
- Guest, will be all over the board depending on the Guest. And of course all of the other members of BlueMaumau, too many to mention who collectively make BlueMaumau what it is both good and bad.
And then there is JANET SPARKS whose coverage of franchising I’ve been reading for far longer than I’m sure either of us cares to admit. Over these many years I’ve come to feel as though I know her, even though to my knowledge we’ve never actually met face-to-face. In addition to my familiarity with her via her writings I know many people who know her, and know her well. Some of these mutual acquaintances would compare her to the likes of Paul E. Steiger and yet others more along the lines of Stephen Glass.
I consider Sparks’ writings here at Blue Maumau to provide great insight into many of the topics which we discuss. She is one of, if not the only ‘professional’ writers here at Blue Maumau who contributes on a regular basis. Her articles are presented in a professional manner, and almost always find their way to the front page, and all but two have carried the BlueMaumau exclusive banner since its introduction. Because of the cumulative effect of these facts, combined with her long standing reputation as a well known industry writer/reporter I hold her to a much higher standard than I hold the anonymous guest or other industry insiders who like myself are sharing their experiences and opinions. With that said, I was particularly offended by her recent article here at Blue Maumau titled A Critical Look at Franchising Healthcare in Kenya.
Using the power of the DVR I recorded the PBS program NOW featuring CFWshops which aired on Friday, May 25th. I got around to watching the program a few days later and immediately wrote about its effect on me in my Bluemaumau Blog on Wednesday, May 30th. I then conducted some additional research and wrote about it further in my blog Synergistic Thoughts on Thursday, May 31st.
AND THEN, Sparks published her take on the story on June 1st. I was flabbergasted! Why would a professional trade writer publish an op-ed piece which took such a negative spin on something so fundamentally good? What purpose did such a spin serve? I believe that the questions posed by Sparks were reasonable questions, but many of them could have easily been answered AND REPORTED, by visiting the CFWshops website or by interviewing some of those involved with CFWshops. You even put a quote that someone else made in the PBS piece and attributed it to Michael Seid.
Sparks for whatever reason choose to carefully construct a negative spin on CFWshops beginning with the title of her article, quickly followed by the use of the word ‘expose’ which has several meanings but is most typically associated with:
- the exposure of an impostor or a fraud or
- debunk: expose while ridiculing; especially of pretentious or false claims and ideas
The NOW program was no expose’… that was David Brancaccio hosting the program not Geraldo Rivera. The program was aired on PBS not E-TV. It should be noted that PBS is known for its Editorial Standards which address items like: Fairness, Accuracy, Objectivity, and Balance. Mrs. Sparks where were your Editorial Standards at the time you wrote your article on CFWshops? Did you interview Scott Hillstrom, Michael Seid or anyone for that matter or was your intent to simply make it look like you did? Did you even bother to visit and study the CFWshops website? I think not, because had you done so you would have had the answers to many of your hypothetical questions.
Mrs. Sparks you write: “It's plan is to use a business-format franchise system to open healthcare franchises in Kenya…” Should your research not have discovered and reported that “The Plan” is in action with sixty five operating locations owned by 64 franchisees. The economics must be working if a poor African nurse can sell some livestock and make enough to open her second location.
Mrs. Sparks you write: “…some are questioning the dynamics of the program”. I ask who, or was that just a general assumption that someone must be questioning because someone always questions everything. Heck, I know people who question the world being round and our visits to the moon. Having a person like Michael Seid, who is readily considered one of the leading consultants in franchising worldwide, involved in this imitative should be enough proof that the CFW franchisor is serious to get it right. Including other experienced franchisors as advisors and seeing that everyone is donating their time and efforts should have told you something about whether they were carefully examining the “dynamics of the program”.
Mrs Sparks you write: “One critic feels this is not a place for franchising and for-profit business, it's a place for philanthropy.” Who is this critic? Do you not believe that this is a philanthropic driven effort? Have you asked anyone involved if they are getting paid and how much if anything? Did you look to see if anyone is getting rich by supporting this imitative? Those would have been good questions to ask Michael Seid and Scott Hillstrom but for some reason you didn’t even bother.
Mrs. Sparks in your unanswered questions you state: “Africa has no clean water and few, if any, suppliers. Refrigerators are unheard of and coolers are hard to find to store perishable supplies and medications.” Mrs. Sparks while it is true that things like running water and electricity are a challenge for many who reside in the poorest parts of Africa, the general area is not void of such things. Your local McDonalds has neither a slaughter house nor a potato farm out back, yet distribution methods have been established which work quite well. Did you ask CFWshops about their distribution methods? Did you take notice that they have been reviewed by several of the most influential authorities on health care in Africa and that their prescription drugs – in being 100% authentic exceed the norm of less than 50% in Africa? Are you aware if they are also addressing the issues of fresh water distribution – ask them – with this talent pool they likely are among other things you did not even know to ask.
Mrs. Sparks you ask: “With all the cost of infrastructure and the limited funds these people have to purchase food, how will they afford a product that generates the margin a franchisee needs?” I guess you missed the part where it was explained that the donation aspect would be used to provide funding to the CFW clientele who did not have the funds to pay for services rendered. This will focus the franchisees on providing services above the market norm since they compete with a free health care system that is not doing a good job. The franchisor would need to live off of the fees it earns and the revenue provided by selling high quality medicine to the clinics. They seem to have their infrastructure dead on and the franchisees seem to making more money than they could by working for the underperforming government health care system.
Mrs. Sparks, you close by asking: “But the real question should probably be, is franchising ready for Africa, or better yet, is Africa ready for franchising?” Mrs. Sparks I ask, as one of the most well known writer/reporters on franchising do you not know that franchising is not NEW to Africa? Perhaps you’ll pay them a visit and while there you might consider staying at the Holiday Inn, renting a car from Budget, Avis or Hertz, or try out some local franchised restaurants. Perhaps you can attend their annual IFE Franchise Expo. Did you understand that Michael Seid likely has deep experience in international franchising including Africa? Did you notice that Steve Greenbaum’s Post Net is an established brand in South Africa? Did it dawn on you that CFW Shops is the largest business format franchisor in East Africa? Did you even comprehend that franchising is working in many markets in Africa and the emerging world. What exactly were you trying to say? Either your research was flawed or as I believe, in your haste to paint a negative picture of an amazing philanthropic exercise by people like Scott Hillstrom and Michael Seid you simply chose not to do any research and instead played out what ever your agenda is.
I have a good friend, franchisor and business associate that left this past Friday on a mission trip to Africa. He’ll actually be spending 3-days working in the very ‘slum’ featured in the NOW program. At my request he’s agreed to some of the CFWshops while there. I’ll be interviewing him and reporting on his findings in the future. If you’d like to interview him as well, I’ll gladly provide you with his name and number. If you were interested in the facts, I think you have Michael Seid’s emails and phone number (doesn’t he write for the same publication as you) and he could have given you other contacts to get information. Perhaps you might want to get on a plane and visit one of the CFW shops and speak to some of their franchisees. A few are profiled on their site and two were profiled in the PBS report.
In closing I must ask Mrs. Sparks, did you allow Michael Seid’s recent criticism of your reporting skills, or his support for the IFA or Jim Amos here on Blue Maumau, cloud your objectivity on this story. Are you bothered that Jim Amos is involved? Is that fact that three past or future chairman of the IFA are involved? From what I see on the web site and on the PBS broadcast, this is not an IFA project but something that is personally being backed by folks who are also in the IFA leadership. I think so because why else would a professional writer of your skill level and professional reputation, report on a story in the manner you choose to report on CFWshops. I hope your article has not caused one single person to withhold a financial contribution which could have saved the life of one innocent and unfortunate child. After all, if you took the time to look at the CFW web page you would have readily seen that they have already served over a million people and folks like ExxonMobil and other major donors are behind their efforts. Do you think that ExxonMobil and P&G don’t do their homework before getting involved in philanthropic activities?
I do not know if franchising is a sustainable methodology for solving healthcare in Africa, but as one recent poster here on Bluemaumau stated, ‘these children in Africa will be no worse off for the effort”. If anyone would like to support this most noble example of Social Entrepreneurship your donation can be made here.
I try to live by the wise advice “never pick a fight with a person who buys their ink by the barrel” and it is not my intent to ‘pick a fight’ with you. For the reasons previously stated I do look up to you as a leading franchise industry writer and reporter, I do hold you to a higher standard, and I DO NOT feel as though your coverage of CFWshops was worthy of your byline.