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.

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Comments

Sparks

Wow. A brave man. Can't wait to see Janet's response. Hope you have your business affairs in order as she is likely to "expose" you next.

You make some outstanding points.

Good luck

Two Stories, Same Event

Dale states, "I...immediately wrote about its effect on me in my Bluemaumau Blog on Wednesday, May 30th.... AND THEN, Sparks published her take on the story on June 1st.  I was flabbergasted!"

Dale,

Yes, you did post about the program first. Janet had informed me as early as Tuesday morning, May 28 that she was working on the story but needed time in developing the piece. You published your piece on May 30. Since your blog was a personal comment on how the program motivated you, I did not see a conflict.

Because of the communal nature of our publication, there may sometimes be two or more articles contributed about the same event or issue.

Mr. Blue MauMauEditor

Recent comments...

"Even if making her (Sparks) point possibly costs people in Africa their life" -----Such nonsense and a pure attack on a reporter with the integrity to report the facts as she saw them.
When facts are reported inaccurately, there is no integrity.

“Why would she have to interview Michael Seid? She posted the NOW coverage which was public information that he put out there.”
The Now program did not call itself an expose’, there were no skeptics or cynics, no discussion about existing or lack of franchising in Africa.

“Because Janet Sparks tells the truth as she sees it and she sees it up close with no spinning, you pro-franchise people want to crucify her.”
A reporter’s job is to tell the facts as the facts are not as they see them. No spinning, I believe she’s done her share of spinning.

“….Janet Sparks is not loose with the facts.”
Mrs. Sparks did make up facts, and I don't think news reporter should make up facts. Straight news should not be fictionalized. That's not what journalism is about.

“Hard to understand where Dale is coming from” He apparently doesn't like J. Sparks "A critical Look at Franchising Healthare in Kenya" and believes that J.Sparks needs to explain her "look" to him”.
Perhaps Dale is looking for responsible posting on Blue Mau Mau. Perhaps J. Sparks needs to explain her “look” to the franchise community.

Janet, needs to come forth and answer the questions!

Into Africa

"Franchising can do more to save the world than anything (else) invented by man."

By Nancy Weingartner - Managing EditorAs published in Franchise Times - May 2007

For those who are following this story, you may want to read Into Africa, written by Franchise Times Managing Editor Nancy Weingartner.

Believe & Succeed,DaleFranSynergy, Inc.Synergizing Franchising!www.fransynergy.com

Into Africa

"Franchising can do more to save the world than anything (else) invented by man."

By Nancy Weingartner - Managing EditorAs published in Franchise Times - May 2007

For those who are following this story, you may want to read Into Africa, written by Franchise Times Managing Editor Nancy Weingartner.

Believe & Succeed,DaleFranSynergy, Inc.Synergizing Franchising!www.fransynergy.com

Bravery or Seeker of Truth?

Yeah and many a brave man has layed slain on the battlefield (thus the reason it took me two days to decide to publish).  As stated I believe Mrs. Sparks to be a credible Journalist, I believe the danger is the ability to hit submit without proofreaders, editors and the like.  I look forward to hearing the response of Mrs Sparks, and hope that it's all just the result of a rush to cover the story.

Do you think my comments will be promoted to the front page as an 'Editorial Comment'?  Probably Not!

Believe & Succeed,DaleFranSynergy, Inc.Synergizing Franchising!www.fransynergy.com

1 Event | 2 Interpretations

Mr. Blue MauMau:

Please understand my comment or remarks had nothing to do with Mrs. Sparks article being published, published first, promoted to the front page.  I wrote my blog as you accurately pointed out 'as how it motivated me'!

I simply found Mrs. Sparks coverage of the story to create controversy where there should be none AND totally void of the foundational research I would expect from a Journalist of Mrs Sparks stature.

As I've said many times, I'm no writer....as a result I have no 'editorial pride' yet I do feel that this story is TOO IMPORTANT to make negative innuendo without fact or research.

Believe & Succeed,DaleFranSynergy, Inc.Synergizing Franchising!www.fransynergy.com

Bravery or Seeker of Truth?

Yeah and many a brave man has layed slain on the battlefield (thus the reason it took me two days to decide to publish).  As stated I believe Mrs. Sparks to be a credible Journalist, I believe the danger is the ability to hit submit without proofreaders, editors and the like.  I look forward to hearing the response of Mrs Sparks, and hope that it's all just the result of a rush to cover the story.

Do you think my comments will be promoted to the front page as an 'Editorial Comment'?  Probably Not!

Believe & Succeed,DaleFranSynergy, Inc.Synergizing Franchising!www.fransynergy.com

1 Event | 2 Interpretations

Mr. Blue MauMau:

Please understand my comment or remarks had nothing to do with Mrs. Sparks article being published, published first, promoted to the front page.  I wrote my blog as you accurately pointed out 'as how it motivated me'!

I simply found Mrs. Sparks coverage of the story to create controversy where there should be none AND totally void of the foundational research I would expect from a Journalist of Mrs Sparks stature.

As I've said many times, I'm no writer....as a result I have no 'editorial pride' yet I do feel that this story is TOO IMPORTANT to make negative innuendo without fact or research.

Believe & Succeed,DaleFranSynergy, Inc.Synergizing Franchising!www.fransynergy.com

Truth

If she did not interview Seid or Hilstrom before she wrote her blog than she is not going to have a decent answer no matter what she says now. She can't possibly find a way to get out of her words nor can she now say she did not write it in a way to make it look liked she did her homework.

Just hack journalism. I disagree with your assessment that she is a credible journalist. She is at best a columnist and often facts can't get in the way of preconcieved positions. Even if making her point possibly costs people in Africa their life.

Truth! Sounds like propaganda to me and meanness!

"Even if making her point possibly costs people in Africa their life" -----Such nonsense and a pure attack on a reporter with the integrity to report the facts as she saw them. Why would she have to interview Michael Seid? She posted the NOW coverage which was public information that he put out there.
I think her facts about the meeting of Michael Seid and Jim Amos and other IFA leaders is a fact and an interesting fact. I hope they are donating their time and resources to help the African people.
Maybe Michael Seid will get out here on Blue Mau Mau and tell us that this is an act of charity on the part of the IFA and they don't intend to profit on any deals that can me made with the Keyon government and the franchisor.

is she a reporter of news or a opinion pundit

You can't have it both ways. Janet is fair game since she is a public figure and she makes her money by writing about franchising. She doesn't do it for FREE!

I sat with Ms. Sparks at an IFA roundtable once and you would have thought I killed her cat when I made a comment about arbitration/mediation versus court proceedings. She was appalled and biased. If she were a true reporter she would have set her bias aside and asked me questions. She did not. She is a partisan and that's okay except when you profess to be a reporter.

what truth?

All I see is the absence of truth and responsible reporting

Sparks

She didn't report anything. The entire program was already linked to bluemauau and all she did was make the reader think she had interviewed people when all she did was state a biased position without any added facts. She is a columnist not a reporter. Calling yourself an investigative journalist when all you are are an opinionated columnist is simply disengenuos.

Why didn't she interview Seid? She knows how to reach him? Perhaps she did not want facts to get in the way of her bias. Perhaps she knows from his other posts that he does not trust her to be truthful in her coverage and would not talk to her.

She does not like Amos and anything he does. She does not like the IFA and anything it does. She apparantly does not like Seid because he calls her biases into question and he is a friend of both Amos and the IFA. She clearly does not like franchisors. Thats OK so long as she does not purport to be a journalist or a reporter and admits she is a columnist with a cause.

BTW - I don't think Seid controls PBS or has the power to put out a story on PBS. That is simply a silly thing to say. I would trust PBS to get the facts right since they do not have a bias.

We are still waiting on Sparks to answer the questions that have been raised in this blog. Janet are you out there?

Janet where are you?

You joined a forum, you've started a blog and you are now being held accountable. Where is your journalistic integrity or are you an opinion writer. Janet you can write but you cannot hide.

My question is what are you? And what do you stand for?

She sees injustice up close! Sparks is an excellent reporrer.

Because Janet Sparks tells the truth as she sees it and she sees it up close with no spinning, you pro-franchise people want to crucify her. Free speech from the Press is protected and, of course, reporters have to eat and pay their bills.
Your ego must have been hurt to make such a silly charge against her. You wanted her to interview you and she didn't.
Whay a crybaby! Were you eating and drinking at this roundtable. Maybe she thought it would be rude to ask you questions.
You are still angry that she revealed some of the comments of those who felt they were cheated in their Sona purchase and that they were seduced by a man they respected as a "man of God"!
Facts might make you unhappy and Janet Sparks is not loose with the facts.
Maybe it is you who are biased and she who was appalled!

How would you know what Janet says is the TRUTH?

Go right ahead and tell us we are waiting.

Yeah right! As long as the reporting supports your foolishness.

What if janet wrote positve articles on franchising.

Ask janet what happened to Continental Law Review?