This past month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its final regulations on premium cigars. While traditional media, online media, blogs, and social media have all covered this, one thing that has become very clear to me is there is a lot of misinformation floating out there on this very topic. And it’s the spread of this misinformation that I feel is making a bad situation worse.
News Sourcing and News Validation
As we have worked to build up our Cigar News content on both Cigar Coop and Stogie Geeks, one thing that we do is implement the concepts of news sourcing and news validation. News sourcing involves disclosing our sources for a story. News validation involves working to verifying to validate the content of story. Obviously freedom of the press allows us to protect our sources, but in our case we are looking to deliver a strong, credible news story and not go down the road or rumor and tabloid journalism. Sourced content helps build that case.
“Morning Radio News”
There is a concept of reporting news of what I call “Morning Radio News”. This is basically where a radio program “reads the headlines” on a program that typically is dedicated to entertainment and not news. In addition to reading the headings and a short abstract, there typically is some light commentary offered. At times I’ve seen the article in print or published online read verbatim – without permission (that’s called plagiarism). In many of these cases, the news is not being sourced (i.e. the newspaper name is not disclosed) and in many cases, it is not validated (the newscaster is taking the word of the source). This is bad journalism – plain and simple. While our Stogie Geeks News program does cover headlines and commentary, this comes from news we delivered with appropriate news sourcing and news validation.
“Morning Radio News” or any regurgitation of a story can become damaging when the content is wrong and then it goes viral on social media. Even cigar industry has not been immune to this. Over the years, we’ve seen several examples of this, but now with the FDA’s recent ruling on premium cigars it has really come to the forefront. This ruling has created more questions than answers. It’s seen a lot of things reported as fact that are more speculation, guess, or plain “made up” stuff.
Why Incorrect Information on the Interpretation of the FDA is Damaging
The spread of misinformation is not becoming a huge problem, it’s a huge problem. The amount of incorrect information reported over this past month has been mind-boggling and is blazing a very dangerous path. While there is plenty of panic in the industry because of the regulations, there is more panic taking place as incorrect information. Manufacturers, Brand Owners, and retailers, who operate as small businesses may be making decisions based on where they think the industry is headed.
The premium cigar industry has been criticized for what has been perceived as a slow response to the FDA regulations. Personally, I would say that some of the criticism is fair, but at the same time, the industry does need to move forward. As I was told from a board member of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers (IPCPR), it takes time to respond to the complex 499 document with the final regulations. Lawyers representing the cigar industry need to look at the document and consult the industry appropriately. The important thing is that Rome wasn’t built overnight. In the meantime, while media stories shouldn’t be ignored, one needs to ensure the information is correct.
Bottom line – without sources, any news story immediately loses its legs. Otherwise it is either guess-work, rumor, or speculation and most be denoted as such. With regards to the regulations, I believe sourcing becomes much more important. If appropriate, the material in the regulations should be referenced. In addition, if a person is involved in a discussion, disclosing the name of the person is a help.
The FDA Regulations have a lot of ramifications on the livelihood of many people.Those who spread that information (traditional (i.e. print) media, online media, blogs, and social media) also have a responsibility to ensure its accurate. Anyone who is sharing that link should be fact-checking the information and have a good feel that the information is from a credible source and validated. One should also be checking the date of the link – especially on the social media end. Forwarding a link that is a month old on social media could be doing more harm than good – especially when there might be more up to date information on it.
Our Point of View
We provided some coverage on the FDA ruling this past month. It was probably less than we wanted, but we also wanted it to be accurate. We opted to take a slower approach. There are a lot of gray areas with the FDA regulations. For now, I feel the cigar industry is better off leaving them gray, as opposed to trying to decipher them.
We aren’t going to publish a scorecard on who is reporting things correct and who isn’t. From our standpoint, we employ a philosophy of rumor-free, teaser-free, and tabloid-free journalism. With our FDA coverage, and any our news coverage, we have worked to always provide reference points and sources. It doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes. We want to educate our readers and viewers, but we also want our audience to challenge us. I encourage everyone to continually challenge any story if you think its wrong.
After all – one headline – why believe it? Everybody wants to rule the world.
This past month, we moved the Stogie Geeks Main Show to Monday nights at 6:30 PM Eastern time. Many have asked for the reason for the move. It simply was logistics and nothing more. The earlier start time does allow us to get to bed a little earlier on show nights.
Our goal is to begin to evolve what is Cigar Coop / Stogie Geeks into a network of media brands dedicated to the cigar industry and cigar lifestyle. We keep the different brands integrated, while at the same time they can be enjoyed as a standalone product. This past month, we have also taken the steps to launch two of our brands, Stogie Geeks Shorts and Stogie Geeks News into standalone brands. Be sure to bookmark the following URLs:
Our goal is to begin to evolve what is Cigar Coop / Stogie Geeks into a network of media brands dedicated to the cigar industry and cigar lifestyle.