Elon Musk challenges reporters by suggesting news-ranking website

The executive has been refuting poor coverage of Tesla, and in his latest tweetstorm, criticized news outlets for being hypocrites. How will the move affect his own credibility?

Tesla and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk is challenging news outlets’ credibility—but his rants might be damaging his own image.

Just days after Musk turned to Twitter to counter a Consumer Reports review, he tweeted a series of posts criticizing publications’ “holier-than-thou hypocrisy” and suggested creating a website where the public can rate journalists and news outlets.

“By 9 a.m. ET, 583,000 people had voted on Musk’s poll with 88 percent supporting his plan,” Reuters reported.

 

It’s not just readers who are advocating for this system, either.

Bloomberg columnist Leonid Bershidsky said Musk’s idea had merit:

Any well-developed social credit system depends on algorithms to process the data it constantly yields about people. I could imagine the organizers of big events that attract a lot of media attention using software to deny accreditation to entire publications or specific reporters and bloggers with a low Pravda rating. One could also imagine time-challenged readers using an app that would only aggregate work from journalists and outlets with the highest credibility ratings. It’s as good a selection principle as any other for people struggling to sort through the current flood of information.

… Journalists today don’t have a meaningful customer rating system. Even if they write on websites where their work can be commented upon or approved, the ratings aren’t portable or universally recognized. Musk’s name on the Pravda project could help it gain that kind of recognition.

… Musk’s motivations might be less than noble; but he’s stumbled on a good idea.

Whether or not you think rating journalists and publications is a good idea, one might wonder why Musk is attacking reporters’ credibility.

“You see, if no one believes the media anymore, why should Musk worry about what the media writes?” questioned Chris Matyszczk in an Inc. article.

Several suggested that Musk’s outcry is a response to recent negative media coverage that has dented Tesla’s image.

Vanity Fair reported:

Much like the rest of Silicon Valley’s wunderkinds, who are coming to grips with their own bad headlines, Musk has enjoyed years of mostly glowing media coverage. Tesla was a novelty when it launched; so, too, was SpaceX. Both ventures, coupled with Musk’s own swashbuckling attitude, earned him press that raised his profile as an entrepreneur, and leagues of devoted fanboys who sing his praises at every opportunity. Readers were inherently interested in Musk’s innovations, which shocked and awed, even when they failed.

Now, of course, the tide has turned. As tech companies have grown into global behemoths, their fumbles have led laymen to second-guess entrusting such massive power to so few C.E.O.s.

The New York Times reported a list of times Musk took to Twitter to fight back against negative media coverage, including an incident where he interrupted an analyst during an earnings call:

Just three weeks ago, Mr. Musk took aim at analysts in a conference call after Tesla’s earnings announcement. At one point, he cut off an analyst asking about the company’s need to raise additional money from investors.

“So where specifically will you be in terms of capital requirements?” asked Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst covering Tesla for Sanford C. Bernstein.

“Excuse me,” Mr. Musk responded, according to a Bloomberg transcript of the call. “Next. Boring bonehead questions are not cool. Next?”

Tesla’s stock price fell 5.6 percent the next day.

Vanity Fair reported:

Musk’s Twitter meltdown, in which he decried reporters’ stories as fake news intended to sabotage his businesses, follows the publication of an investigation last month from Reveal, the editorial arm of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, which included multiple reports of safety issues at Tesla factories brushed under the rug by management. (“In our view, what they portray as investigative journalism is in fact an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla,” reads a statement Tesla gave to Reveal before the story was published.) When a ProPublica reporter defended Reveal on Wednesday, Musk retorted, “[T]hey’re just some rich kids in Berkeley who took their political science prof too seriously.”

If Musk is hoping that his angry Twitter rants are helping turn the tide for his auto brand, he might be disappointed.

Though most Twitter users voted in favor of his proposed journalism ranking site, several social media users criticized the executive for his tweets:

Musk’s rant hasn’t stopped negative press coverage, either (though recent articles are no longer about Tesla).

The Guardian published a quiz titled, “Who said it – Donald Trump or Elon Musk?Bloomberg’s article has the headline, “Musk channels Caesar and Soviet Era Media in latest tweet storm.” Forbe’s article is called, “Elon Musk’s Trump Derangement Syndrome,” and Engadget published a story titled, ” Elon Musk needs to chill out.

Engadget’s Roberto Baldwin wrote:

Remember when an Uber executive said some crazy shit at a dinner party about tracking and digging up dirt on journalists? Yeah, that was a stupid thing to do. Now Tesla CEO Elon Musk is walking down that same path. Except he didn’t say it at a private shindig where he thought the world wasn’t listening. It’s on Twitter and it’s ridiculous, dangerous — and shouldn’t he be building cars right now?

Despite the criticism on Twitter and increase of negative headlines, Musk doubled down on his remarks with the following tweets:

What do you think of Musk’s recent responses?

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