My Tuesday PJ Media column (this morning’s BizzyBlog mirror) generated a “correction requested for your column” emailed to me by a Brianna Cayo Cotter, Managing Director of Communications at Change.org :
I just saw your column, “Phony Change.org Petition Protests Cuts to Part-Timers’ Hours at Staples” and wanted to reach out and request a correction based on some inaccuracies in the piece.
Your headline labels Sue’s petition on Change.org as “phony,” and the article suggests that “Sue” is not a real person (“we’ll assume that she’s a real person, but one can’t rule out the opposite”) and that Sue did not start the petition herself (“the web site’s artificially orchestrated efforts”).
It is inaccurate to describe Sue’s petition as “phony” or as Change.org’s “artificially orchestrated efforts.”
Sue launched her petition on Change.org on December 21, 2013. Change.org does not start petitions and does not take editorial positions on any of the campaigns started on our site, including Sue’s petition. Change.org is an open platform, meaning, anyone anywhere can come to the site to start a petition.
It is also incorrect to suggest that Sue isn’t a real person. Our team has had communication with Sue and her identity has been verified by independent journalists who have reported on Staples decision to cut employee hours (see recent BuzzFeed coverage of Sue’s petition here).
I ask that you to update the headline to correct the assertion that Sue’s petition is “phony” and correct the article to indicate that Sue is a real person who started her own petition on Change.org.
PJ Media has posted that email and its official response, with my input, at the end of the column (revised to read as follows earlier today):
Mr. Blumer responds that he’s entitled to his opinions and stands by his assertions. — The PJM Editors
I wish to elaborate further here. The following assertions are mine and not PJ Media’s.
The short version is: “I stand by my opinions and assertions.”
The longer version follows, and refutes Change.org’s three objections.
1. Change.org claims that “Sue is a real person,” and that I should remove by qualifying language.
The column states that “we’ll assume that she’s a real person, but one can’t rule out the opposite.” There is nothing wrong with that statement. Change.org says she is real, but I still can’t prove that she is, and won’t be able to unless and until “Sue” fully identifies “herself.”
2. Change.org claims that “it is inaccurate to describe Sue’s petition as ‘phony.’”
Besides being my opinion, to which I am entitled, I contend that the petition is “phony” based on at least three items.
First, there’s “Sue’s” pose as some kind of uninformed affected person in the email compared to the detailed knowledge presented in the online petition itself (there should be no variance between the two).
Second, her email demands that Staples “comply with Obamacare” when there is no evidence that the company has broken any law or intends to.
Third, her characterization of the 30-hour rule as a “loophole,” when it’s been known for almost four years. The law’s drafters clearly thought that the 30-hour rule was a way to force companies to cover more people. That it isn’t working out that way doesn’t make the 30-hour rule a “loophole.”
All three items represent clear examples of phoniness.
3. Change.org claims that “It is inaccurate to describe Sue’s petition as “artificially orchestrated.”
Besides being my opinion, to which I am entitled, my contention is based primarily on the following two points.
First, the Wired article to which I linked indicated that Change.org is “not just a path to The People. It’s a Google-like Big Data play.” In other words, it sends unsolicited emails to targeted prospects who have ever signed a Change.org petition based on what the company has gone out and learned about those prospects once they coughed up their name and email address. That is artificial orchestration.
Second, the content of “Sue’s” email differs materially from the content of the actual petition text. To name just one example, the email is about making Staples “comply with the law,” while the petition page’s text makes no such inference. So the email ropes people in with inflammatory language in which falls off in what it supposed to be the mirrored text at the web page. That is more artificial orchestration.
Thus, I stand by my opinions and assertions.