In our first week tracking Tesla headlines across major media outlets, several things stood out to us. One of the big takeaways was that a few major media sites routinely publish a ton of articles about Tesla. Furthermore, those same media sites have demonstrated an overall negative slant on the company.
Generally speaking, the aim of the media is supposed to be uncovering the truth and sharing that truth with the world. A big part of that must be putting information into context. A large part of the media’s job is describing the full picture of a puzzle, not just providing a description of one piece. You can’t do a deep dive of Alabama and then pretend that represents the United States as a whole (excluding the people of New York, Florida, California, and dozens of other states from the story). Unfortunately, certain media outlets have done something like that with Tesla.
One of the large media sites that obsessively covers Tesla, and with a negative slant, is Business Insider, a site we’ve responded to a few times due to horrible articles it has published about the electric car company (click that link for those pieces). If you scroll through 30 Business Insider headlines about Tesla from the first week in September (below), you can see 23 negative headlines, 2 positive headlines, and 5 neutral headlines.
The negative headlines covered a fire in a single Tesla Model S, a supposed “assault” on Tesla from German automakers (call it episode #79 of “Tesla Killers”), negative (or negative-sounding) anecdotes from employees, negative news and opinions about Tesla stock (TSLA), the insinuation that Elon Musk leads a fanatical and slavish cult, a single lawsuit (one, notably, that Elon Musk implied on The Joe Rogan Experience was absurd since the woman, who broke her foot in an accident, would have likely been harmed much worse if not killed if she had been in a different vehicle), executive departures, and the idea that Elon Musk is something like a bum on the Tesla factory floor that employees must carefully walk around as he sleeps on the ground.
On the positive side, there was an order of 30 Tesla Semis from Walmart (which was actually a repost from Motor Authority) and a highlighted statement from a “wide-ranging” email to employees: “We’re about to have to [sic] most amazing quarter in our history.” (Note: The typo in that headline is from Business Insider, not Tesla.)
Did these 30 headlines do a good job painting an accurate overall picture of Tesla? Of course not. Not a single headline explained in any way why it is Tesla is “about to have to [sic] most amazing quarter in [its] history.” In fact, if you looked over all of these headlines, you’d think Tesla was about to have a horrendous quarterly report. If you go back further in time on Business Insider, I’m sure it would look even more bleak. In actuality, Business Insider headlines, as well as the rests of its coverage, paint a picture of Tesla that is unbalanced, misleading, and I would say defamatory.
|Title||Implications for Tesla|
|Tesla’s volatility could be costing it millions in lost investments, an analyst warns||Negative|
|Electric Mercedes opens German assault on Tesla||Negative|
|The NTSB just released a new report on the Tesla Model S that mysteriously caught fire in the middle of the street (TSLA)||Negative|
|Tesla employees describe what it’s like to work in the gigantic Gigafactory (TSLA)||—|
|Tesla SolarCity employees say they were left in the dark about pay and didn’t know when the solar roof would actually arrive (TSLA)||Negative|
|Elon Musk works so many hours at Tesla, employees are constantly finding him asleep under tables and desks||Negative|
|Some Tesla employees are disappointed that Elon Musk isn’t taking the company private: ‘We have so much external pressure’||Negative|
|70-hour weeks and ‘WTF’ emails: 42 employees reveal the frenzy of working at Tesla under the ‘cult’ of Elon Musk||Negative|
|Tesla sinks to its lowest level since June (TSLA)||Negative|
|Elon Musk is said to have hired a lawyer who used to work for the SEC as the agency reportedly investigates his ‘funding secured’ tweet||Negative|
|Utah driver sues Tesla after crashing in Autopilot mode||Negative|
|Tesla sinks after a notorious short-seller sues Elon Musk over his alleged attempt to burn investors like him||Negative|
|The Tesla Model S came in last in a major survey ranking cars by how reliable they are||Negative|
|Tesla chief accountant resigns||—|
|Elon Musk was filmed smoking weed just weeks after saying marijuana kills productivity||Negative|
|Elon Musk says he has big ideas for an electric plane, but that it ‘isn’t necessary right now’||—|
|‘He doesn’t seem to want to build any confidence’: Wall Street is asking questions of Elon Musk (TSLA)||Negative|
|Walmart plans to purchase 30 more Tesla Semis||Positive|
|Tesla is getting crushed after 2 executives jump ship and CEO Elon Musk smokes weed||Negative|
|Tesla’s chief accountant quits after one month on the job (TSLA)||Negative|
|Elon Musk breaks down what he doesn’t like about Instagram — and why social media can negatively impact people’s mental health||—|
|Elon Musk in a wide-ranging note to employees: ‘We’re about to have to most amazing quarter in our history’||Positive|
|Tesla’s head of HR has resigned||Negative|
|Tesla Shares Fall After News Chief Accounting Officer Has Resigned||Negative|
|Tesla chief accounting officer resigns after a month||Negative|
|Tesla stock falls as CEO appears to smoke marijuana on video||Negative|
|Tesla Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton Resigns; Stock Plunges||Negative|
|Labaton Sucharow Announces the Filing of a Securities Class Action Lawsuit Against Elon Musk and Tesla||Negative|
|Elon Musk says The Boring Company ‘started out as a joke’ and acknowledges his Los Angeles tunnel project may fail||Negative|
|Elon Musk said it’s probably unwise to kick robots because they have a very good memory||—|
As you can see, there was no mention that the Tesla Model 3 had become the highest selling car in the United States in terms of revenue. There was no mention that the Tesla Model 3 had become the 5th highest selling car in the United States in terms of unit sales. There was no mention that Tesla outsold every other automaker in terms of US luxury car sales. There was no mention of why the Tesla Model 3 is so popular. There was no clear or direct mention of the high projected sales Tesla now expects to report in Q3, and no explanation of what that implies. There was no mention that Tesla seems to be on track with forecasts Elon Musk made at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2015. Of all the positive reviews out there about the Tesla Model 3 and especially its new Performance edition, Tesla-obsessed Business Insider didn’t publish a single positive review or summary of reviews last week.
Actually, when it came to exploring owner opinions of the Model 3, in August, Business Insider did something odd. Reporter Mark Matousek started out by going after new Model 3 owners on Twitter with an obvious goal in mind. He contacted several dozen, if not hundreds, of new Tesla Model 3 owners on Twitter. Here’s a small sample of tweets reaching out to such people:
Head over to this Tesla Motors Club post for a much longer list of such tweets.
For some context, remember that Tesla went from producing and delivering approximately 2,000 cars a week one year ago to approximately 7,000 cars per week this quarter. With such a steep increase in production and delivery, there have no doubt been hiccups in the process and some new buyers have experienced those hiccups. Tesla needs to smoothen out some of the natural challenges that come from such dramatic growth. However, cherry picking buyers who experienced such hiccups and creating a narrative around them without the broader context of overall consumer reviews of these vehicles, the delivery process, and Tesla as a whole is, again, a way to create a warped picture of Tesla in the public’s eye. Why would you want to buy a Tesla vehicle if there’s no apparent benefit of the cars, they come with flaws, and the delivery process sucks?
When Mark’s article “summarizing” his findings came out, you’ll never believe it, but the title had a heavily negative slant.
Now, before you think that this might really be an accurate representation of the overall Tesla buyer experience, remember that the Model S has been the car consumers are most satisfied with several years in a row based on extensive Consumer Reports owner surveys. Also, by and large, reviews of the Model 3 have been raving, with many people (seemingly most) indicating it’s the best car they’ve ever driven, it’s a notable improvement on the Model S (especially the Model S of years past), and it’s much better than buyers or reviewers expected it would be. The takeaway point from buyers has not been that Tesla cars have flaws and ownership is dominated by a painful experience of trying to get the cars fixed. Much to the contrary, the net takeaway has been that Tesla creates the best cars on the planet and the new owners will never go back to buying gasoline cars and will probably never live without a Tesla again.
When Business Insider leads with such a negative takeaway, and surrounds that headline with dozens of other negative headlines about Tesla, it is doing a disservice to the truth. It is doing a disservice to society. It is doing a disservice to readers. Actually, what service is Business Insider providing to anyone? One has to wonder.
Pondering that question, it is perhaps worth reading up on the history of Business Insider co-founder and CEO Henry Blodget. As an intro paragraph from his Wikipedia page summarizes, “He is a former equity research analyst who was senior Internet analyst for CIBC Oppenheimer and the head of the global Internet research team at Merrill Lynch during the dot-com era. Due to his violations of securities laws and subsequent civil trial conviction, Blodget is permanently banned from involvement in the securities industry.”
Coincidentally, or not, Blodget also used to be “a frequent contributor” to Seeking Alpha and “frequently appeared on CNBC.” Seeking Alpha is perhaps the most infamous website on the internet for misleading, bearish TSLA coverage, but if it is beaten in that category by any other publication, it would almost definitely be CNBC or Business Insider. Why does this small circle of “financial and business experts” focus so much attention — and so much misleading negativity — on Tesla? One has to wonder.
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