On June 25, 2015, Steve Saka was a guest on Stogie Geeks Episode 146. After announcing June 19th, that his two year non-compete agreement had ended, Saka was officially allowed to return to the cigar industry. I happened to be the one to interview Saka, and during the conversation I asked him what his next move was. He responded to me as follows:
“I absolutely know what my next move is. I knew what my next move was going to be pretty much the day I cashed my check from Drew Estate. At that this point though, I really don’t want to say anything because I want it to be right.
“I’ve been working on a product, I’ve been working on a blend. I’m very excited about it. At this point I’m not really ready to start dropping names and making promises and claims and this and that.”
It was pretty much the first time that Saka publicly acknowledged he was returning to the cigar business. But it wasn’t the complete story as Saka wasn’t ready to announce specific plans. As the interviewer, I wanted to respect Saka’s wishes and give him the opportunity to announce this on his own terms, so I didn’t press harder. Given this wasn’t a complete story, I opted to not brand his interview this “Steve Saka’s Comeback”, etc. Instead I branded the interview an “Interview with Steve Saka”.
The video aired live on Thursday June 25th was published online on Sunday June 28th. I fully expected our competition to react quickly. Sure enough they did. By Monday June 29th, we all learned that one media outlet did some creative trademark searching, connected some dots, and announced what Saka’s venture would be. The resulting headline from that media outlet would be “Steve Saka Returning with Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust”.
I want to be clear about one thing, this media outlet certainly had the right to publish this information. The information they published was public record. According to a comment by Saka on the story, the author gave Saka a heads up, but he had preferred the author hold off. Obviously he didn’t.
The problem I have is that the man’s wishes were not respected here. I’ll always advocate freedom of the press and this case due diligence was done by the author and the media outlet. But in my book, this isn’t the way things are done with Cigar Coop and Stogie Geeks. There are limits and if a limit is honoring the subject’s request (especially if the subject has always been generous with time and information), that’s what we will do.
Coming full circle, I feel very good about the way we handled the Steve Saka interview and how we positioned it. We respected his wishes and still had a great conversation on the air. Most importantly, I feel we kept to our core principles to deliver honest and ethical journalism. We don’t print rumors, we don’t print teasers. We strive to be a brand that can be trusted by our readers and our sponsors. This is our philosophy.
In hindsight, as the Editor in Chief / Host of the Cigar Coop / Stogie Geeks brands if I had to do this all over again, I’d handle it the same exact way. I’d still respect the man’s wishes. I certainly would not feel the need to put on a “TMZ hat” and play investigative journalist. I also wouldn’t headline a story that had not been realized to its fruition. This is just how we operate and I think it’s what makes us who we are. We will not become a TMZ media outlet.
Everybody Wants to Rule the World…..