Tuesday, February 03, 2004

On Jan. 23, the Wall Street Journal published a profile of Douglas Faneuil, who was the assistant to the broker of "style maven" Martha Stewart. (Not AP style, mind you.)

For some reason, one of the authors (Matthew Rose or Kara Scannell) included something from Faneuil's Friendster profile:
In a profile Mr. Faneuil wrote about himself for an online networking site called Friendster, he listed his current occupation as: "professional job seeker." One friend commented on the site that Mr. Faneuil is "the only person I know who can pull off being the sweetest guy in the world while also being the most wanted by the federal government." Through his lawyer, Mr. Faneuil declined to comment.
On Romenesko's letters site, Jonathan Katz takes the financial paper of record to task.
I guess there are more stupid, less ethical ways to report, but I can't think of any. To access a Friendster profile first of all means that you are five degrees of separation or less from the person in question, which means the reporters are admitting that they, or one of their colleagues, have friends in common with the subject.

Secondly, the information is basically private. The conceit of the site is that not just anybody can access your profile. Should you post anything online you don't want the world to read? No. But reprinting a personal ad in the Wall Street Journal is just creepy.

But most of all, the reporters missed a crucial detail: Everybody on Friendster lies.
(Now that this Friendster secret is out, I might as well tell you that I'm not dating Larry Eustachy.)

I think it's pretty clear that Jonathan is right: Friendster information does not belong in a serious WSJ article. The tone of the site dictates frivolity, exaggeration and lies. And this Friendster "friend" the article sites had no intention of his testimonial to be published later.

But this should be another lesson in "Watch what you write on the Internet." There's no telling what Google will be able to pull up on you.


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