Harvard university's Nieman Lab offers a "an incomplete history of Forbes.com as a platform for scams, grift, and bad journalism". Forbes, an illustrious business magazine on a par with Fortune and Bloomberg Businessweek, transformed its website into a growth-obsessed blog platform more than a decade ago, with a plan to outpace The Huffington Post through sheer unedited, unchecked, mostly-unread volume. Putting such a well-respected brand on user-generated content and posing it in the same format and style as its professional journalism was a grand experiment that reached its crescendo this week, when a suspected billion-dollar cryptoscammer, cringe-inducing rapper and Forbes contributor all turned out to be the same person.
Joshua Benton :
This was a magazine positioned for captains of industry, the sort of outlet that would proudly brand itself as "Forbes: Capitalist Tool" without ever thinking those words might mean something other intended. Owner Malcolm Forbes "seemed to exemplify a kind of gleeful capitalism that relished the things that money could buy, from macho symbols like the 68 motorcycles he owned to an extensive collection of Faberge eggs."
Of all the ways Forbes magazine might have evolved from there, Past Me would never have guessed "under-edited group blog that's a soft mark for grifters." Call it "Forbes: Scammer Tool."
We are all mean girls in journalism, to be sure, but there's always a certain savoir faire about criticizing its institutions and mastheads. So Harvard folks dumping on Forbes like this is pretty funny.
What's the line that Forbes crossed? The bald proposition of its machinery—here, you can pose your PR, advertising or criminal misdirection as a Forbes™ article!—makes everyone else look sleazy too. Its like a comment on what media is good for, something Harvey Keitel or Christopher Walken might explain to a tearful protagonist as a disarming reflection on human weakness and failure, if Quentin Tarantino made movies about business magazines.