Tuesday, December 18

Socking Steve Hall: Biegel’s Attorney

When Adrants posted a mud wrestling photo and colorful commentary related to the Steve Biegel vs. Dentsu lawsuit, it attracted some attention. Most notably from Biegel’s attorney, Andy Dwyer, who offered up his own sharp commentary in a comment. It was sharp enough to convince Steve Hall to strike through his post and proclaim himself an idiot.

“I find it incredible that Mr. Hall feels qualified to post on this case when (a) he has obviously never read any of the filings in the case, even though they are all publicly available on the internet, and (b) he has never bothered to speak to anyone involved on the side of the plaintiff, even though they can all easily be reached,” noted the Dwyer comment. “Mr. Hall erroneously relied on an article in another publication, and then bought their spin hook, line and sinker.”

However, given other comments were offered up from “Toyo Shigeta,” and “Denny Crane” and “Not Biegel’s Lawyer,” one never really knows if someone who comments is who they say they are. Right?

“Is there anyone in your industry who is willing to take the time to read the court file in this case before they publicly express an opinion? Or is that too much to ask? If folks in the blogosphere ever want their writings to rise above the level of graffiti, they are going to have to work a little harder at getting their facts straight before they post,” stated Dwyer.

Never mind that advertising folks read Adrants because it provides tabloid-style op-eds in contrast to more recognized advertising trade publications, one of which Dwyer claims erred in its reporting. Never mind that Adrants never attempted to establish itself as legitimate journalism that I am aware of.

Never mind, except I still took interest in exchange. Why? Because I had read the court file. And, although I mostly write on public observation, I wanted to find out if Dwyer made the comment. Maybe he'd even answer some questions I had about the case, I thought.

He did make the comment. However, he doesn't seem inclined to be interviewed about the case beyond the reasonably polite and extended commentary he e-mailed me, which says that he pretty much has “zero respect” for bloggers. According to Dwyer, he is not alone either.

“Interestingly, real journalists have written to me in response to my post on Adrants to applaud what I said, because they are tired of bloggers being compared to journalists,” he wrote.

Highlights From The Andy Dwyer E-mail

• He commented on Adrants because he says the statements made were “demonstrably false.” He said he was setting the record straight.
• He says that he and his client have refused to partake in the media battle, contrary to statements made by some bloggers (He says they have refused comment to some journalists, and he and his client has repeatedly denied interviews).
• He likens the anonymous comments to garbage, which “reduces blogs to little more than the walls of a bathroom, where any idiot can scrawl whatever illiterate nonsense pops into his head.”
• He finds it unlikely, “even if I gave the entire court file to a disinterested observer, he would not be able to understand it unless he had particular expertise in employment matters and/or the law.”

Dwyer raises some good points, and some not so good points. Obviously it is much too early in the case to call an outcome. But it is not so early to note that the media has shifted its angling from a Dentsu spectacle to Biegel’s credibility.

It is this shift in reporting, perhaps because Dwyer and Biegel are less accessible to the media, that makes it interesting. Perhaps if they were more accessible, the burden would still be on Dentsu.

Regardless, while Dwyer is right that the case is about the law, he is not so right in saying it isn’t about branding or communication. Sure, media coverage is not likely to impact the court’s decision, but the outcome of this case may have long-term consequences for Biegel and Dentsu.

And therein lies the rub. As much as professionals sometimes proclaim bloggers cannot understand their area of expertise, sometimes those who say so do not understand blogging or communication. Really, it’s not difficult.

Understanding Bloggers: Engagement 101

In a very broad sense, when it comes to cases like Biegel vs. Denstu, it is the media that sets the stage, leaving bloggers to pen op-eds based on the setting. Sometimes, the commentary reads not unlike radio talk shows, which do allow anonymous callers to chime in.

That understood, non-communication people hoping to engage bloggers, even to correct them, are best served by evaluating the individual blogger much like they would the radio talk show host.

You see, some bloggers lean toward journalism and some do not. Knowing where any particular blogger may reside on this invisible line dictates the engagement. And that can make all the difference.

For example, singling out Hall’s post made little sense to me because all it did was invite more of the same, not less of the same. Mostly, Adrants is an entertaining take on the advertising industry. And while correcting Hall may have been prudent, going beyond the correction to take a couple of extended swipes communicates something other than what was intended.

Sure, some may hold Dwyer’s opinion that even well-known blogs “inspire fear (e.g. the Drudge Report) are notorious for repeatedly stating things that are simply not true.” (Personally, I don’t think bloggers inspire fear. Fear has to exist in those who are fearful.) Yet, he is not so right in thinking that all bloggers do not investigate as diligently as journalists. It depends on the blogger.

Suffice to say, if there is anything to take away from all this (beyond attempting to understand a blogger before engaging them publicly), it might be to understand that social media didn’t create public commentary or opinion. That has always existed.

What social media did was extend that reach beyond e-mails and water coolers, making it more public, especially to those being discussed. Sometimes, it is a good thing. Sometimes, it is not such a good thing.

I think even Dwyer might agree with me here, given he closed by saying “none of the posts on any of the blogs will ever have any relevance, except perhaps to support our claims of retaliation by Dentsu.”

Ironically, this is precisely what used to be said about journalists before bloggers began sharing the spotlight (or lurking in the shadows, depending on where your head is at). For most people, the media’s credibility always seemed to be related to how closely aligned it was to the subject’s opinion. Go figure.



Sweet Tea on 12/18/07, 2:25 PM said...

Does this mean all lawyers are like him since all bloggers are alike?

Typical wingnut position.

Thanks Rich.

Rich on 12/18/07, 4:13 PM said...

Thanks Jane,

Yeah, I thought about that, but didn't pursue it because he did put thought into response. As it turns out, the net some of his words and actions seem to place him somewhere in the middle.

It really demonstrates how much professionals and attorneys need to learn about communicating with bloggers (and possibly the media). You cannot really have it both ways or half way — that's how many people get into trouble. I probably could have written a rather harsh post, but I told I would be fair.

For example, it's an odd sort of communication to tell someone you are going to try hard to be polite. It basically says what it means: I'll be polite, but I don't really want to be. It's also opens yourself to some jeopardy, whether e-mailing a blogger or journalist.

Personally, I don't take any offense of what he wrote (though he said he thought I might). There are people who hold his position; I find it interesting in that I hold the extreme opposite position. I respect everybody, until they demonstrate otherwise.


Steve Hall on 12/18/07, 4:28 PM said...

Thanks for the level-headed analysis, Rich. There is so much gray area in this case, much of the time, no matter what is written, holes will be poked it it.

Andy and I had a cordial phone conversation after he left his comment and he has sent me the case files which I am part way through.

Adrants offers news and commentary with heavy emphasis on the commentary which, as you know, is why we write the way we do. It's not that we have complete disregard for fact. We don't. While we're not research journalists, we do make at least some effort to check facts. Our assumption Advertising Age had all the facts on this was clearly a mistake.

It's silly when journalists get all worked up over bloggers. Clearly, bloggers aren't out to replace The New York Times or, in this case, Advertising Age. Mostly, bloggers do not pretend to be journalists. Bloggers feed off journalists and journalist have come to feed of bloggers. One does not negate the other.

To say bloggers are some horrific blight on journalism indicates a serious misunderstanding of social media, its positives and its negatives.

You are right when you say I never intended Adrants to be some sort of replacement to Adverting Age. That would be a ludicrous endeavor. All I aim to provide is commentary on the ad industry that is entertaining and informative. Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I get it wrong. Kind of like your average human being.

Unknown on 12/18/07, 9:00 PM said...

Since I'm unfamiliar with the case I suppose it behooves me to shut my fingers up right now!!! :)


Rich on 12/19/07, 9:26 AM said...

Hey Steve,

Thanks so much for contributing your take on this.

We're fans of Adrants. And we're fans because it offers a healthy dose of entertaining and informative commentary on the ad industry (based in fact). I think you do a brilliant job at reminding everyone not to take themselves so seriously.

I'm glad you had a chance to speak with Andy and that he decided to send you the case files. It will be interesting to read your take on the case afterward.

Sometimes when we've dug deeper into stories, wearing our journalism hat (even though this blog is no attempt to be publication), it usually creates more questions than it answers. But this is also why my take on communication is simple.

If Dwyer was my client, I would have pointed out that it was not your fault Advertising Age reported on "what seems to be" as opposed to what is nor that Adrants or any other blogger at fault for running with the story as presented.

On the contrary, I would have told him that we are all responsible for the messages that are out there about us ... so the real question is ... what could Dwyer have done to prevent the article as it was written. But that's me. :)

You're also right that it is silly when journalists get worked up over bloggers. Most of them do not want to be journalists. A few do. So why begrudge that.

If anything, it seems to me that many bloggers do a pretty good job back linking to publications and promoting stories that may have never been read otherwise, thereby giving the writer even more visibility than before.

Thanks again for taking the time to comment. I love that you are human. Me too. :)

All my best,

Rich on 12/19/07, 9:29 AM said...


Very funny! I love it someone comes by and points out the obvious communication. I guess if we flipped that one, then Mr. Dwyer could not comment on blogs.

Of course, I'm not really saying that. I appreciate that he took the time to respond. Not everyone would have.


Rich on 1/16/08, 10:50 PM said...


"U.S. District Court judge has asked former Dentsu creative director Steve Biegel for more information to support his allegations of sexual harassment against the agency. However, the judge also said Dentsu's motion to dismiss many of the claims made in a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit Biegel filed in October would be denied." ADWEEK


Rich on 1/25/08, 10:14 PM said...


"The District Court judge rejected Dentsu's motion for a summary judgment in the case of Steve Biegel v. Dentsu Holdings." ADWEEK



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