Published on July 26th, 2020 |
by Zachary Shahan
July 26th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
I have no intention here to rub anything in the faces of people who were wrong about Tesla [TSLA]. Frankly, I’m sure there were plenty of good, honest people who were just on the wrong side of a complicated analysis. I have known some of them. Disruptive transitions are disruptive because they can be sort of hard to see coming, or the inertia of human thought is just so strong that our mind blocks out what’s obvious. Either way, the point is that you can be smart, thoughtful, and genuine but still have a faulty analysis about a disruptive technology and a disruptive company.
We’ve been criticized by some parties for years for being “Tesla fans” or “biased” or simply irrational. There is no doubt we make mistakes. We make mistakes every day. You can’t be in this industry full time and not make a lot of mistakes. This is not scientific research in which you perform a regression analysis and come to rigorous scientific conclusions on everything before you publish about it. Nonetheless, the mistakes are no less humbling and sometimes horribly embarrassing. It happens, and we own up to mistakes when we make them even if it is painful.
Regarding Tesla, though, I think there was actually such an anti-Tesla bias permeating the industry — the auto industry, Wall Street, broader journalism, and beyond — that any site that reported a consistently positive story on Tesla was written off by many as an illogical and biased fan site. At this point in time, though, I think it’s time for a bit of a reckoning, and while I don’t want to boast (boasting sucks), I think it’s high time to reframe the view of the media landscape. We took a ton of unwarranted, illogical, biased heat for reporting the actual story of Tesla. Looking back several years, people who have been critical of our analyses and media outlets that have been highly skeptical or biased against Tesla should recognize:
Perhaps we just analyzed the Tesla situation and the Tesla story well, much better than many others.
We didn’t write in large volume about some of the other EV efforts, such as clear “compliance cars” (electric cars built only to comply with regulations), and we didn’t always have the prettiest take on certain startups or products — because they simply were not as notable or compelling on a comprehensive level. We didn’t see others on a path to disrupting the auto industry like Tesla was because, when we analyzed things, they didn’t have the clear foundation or potential to do so.
Of course, we have also written thousands of articles on non-Tesla electric vehicles and the companies creating them. It’s not like we didn’t cover others as well. We are specifically not a Tesla fan site. However, no one is yet to rise to the level of Tesla when it comes to an individual electric vehicle product or the comprehensive e-mobility ecosystem it offers. We could see that years ago, as Tesla rolled out Supercharger after Supercharger, built Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, and then built Giga Shanghai more recently. Many others were overly skeptical of Tesla and its plans, but assuming they were right, we got put into a “not fair and balanced” category. People who didn’t come to the same conclusions as we did saw us as overly optimistic on this young company. That’s fine. Have a different opinion and follow and support the sites that you think offer the best analysis. But, at some point, when reality plays out, recognize analyses were what they were — more accurate or less accurate. Continuing down a path just because it’s the one you were on is wrong if you started out on the wrong path.
If Tesla is doing something that we think is leading in a bad direction, we report on it. Sometimes our writers even report on a new story from vastly different points of view, because we do not have one monolithic opinion here at CleanTechnica. However, we also don’t avoid saying when something looks like it is going to be successful and highly popular. We do not shun making bold conclusions and sharing them. We do not hide behind a “pretend to not have a human brain when reporting on the news” ethos. We try to use our brains to understand the topics we are covering and then try to report both the news and our analyses of the news.
Over time, I’m sure many people have come to the conclusion that CleanTechnica is a “Tesla site,” not an unbiased news and analysis site. Looking at things from the point of view of what has played out in reality, though, I hope some of those people will come up with the same humility we have to muster when we make mistakes and will recognize that what may have seemed like “biased” reporting to many a few years ago has turned out to be realistic, accurate reporting and analysis.
As for the future: no guarantees. We may screw up the story. But we have a few dozen people on our team who strive in a way that is above and beyond the norm to try to understand what is happening in cleantech and share insights on that. They do more than we can adequately reward them in financial compensation. If they offer a strong opinion on a technology or a topic, consider that it may well have come from an enormous amount of research and hours or years of thought. Also reflect on this: is it a good or bad thing if a news site is full of writers who have opinions on the things they write about?
We are dramatically far from perfect. We fail every day. But we try really freakin’ hard to do a good job. In the case of Tesla, it appears from the company’s clear success to date, that seeing through the fear and negative hype was more accurate, realistic, and professional than hiding behind fake objectivity ad fashionable skepticism.
But that’s just my biased take on things. If Tesla goes bankrupt in a year, I will take a deep breath and come out publicly to acknowledge that we did a horrible job reporting on the story and should reconsider our approach to our work. (If only media outlets that seem to have screwed up the Tesla story for so long would do the same.)
Side note: If you find this valuable and you’d like to see us create more in-depth analyses and more voluminous news coverage, please do consider a monthly contribution of $3 or $5 or $10. We’ve got to be worth more than a cup of coffee a month, right?