If you see something on the Internet, it must be true.
It seems that at The Consumerist and at The Huffington Post, “it must be true” is what passes for journalism. Go ahead; check either the Consumerist or Huffington Post links and you’ll be treated to video from the CBS TV affiliate in Dallas Texas, showing you a piece purporting to tell a story.
Oh, it tells a story. CBS11 Dallas/Fort Worth, The Huffington Post, and Consumerist are all in the same business, and it isn’t journalism.
I might be a bit preoccupied with the idea of journalistic change, but it’s an important topic and speaks to business change in ways that are worrying me more and more. I was only kidding a little bit when I suggested that Answer Guy Central is every bit as much a journalistic outpost as ABC and The Daily Show, but that little bit is the line that’s becoming harder and harder to find as companies that are trusted as “real” journalistic sources get sloppier and sloppier even as we’re bombarded with information in ever-increasing volume. Refer back to this David Aldridge/NBA/Journalism piece for more.
I could rant over this CBS11/HuffPo/Consumerist thing from a few angles, so let’s put the journalism part to bed quickly; Despite Dallas/Fort Worth being a “real” media market of some size, nightly news has become more and more about local public interest stories and less and less about “news”, so for CBS11 Dallas/Fort Worth to tell a thin story about the indignity of a land owner having trouble with a tenant is almost excusable. It sounds meaty, but to CBS11 it’s just another three-minute throwaway.
Consumerist and Huffington Post, on the other hand—and perhaps oddly—are reporting from more serious and important positions. The Consumerist, a well-respected blog started by Gina Trapani and now owned by the same company that publishes Consumer Reports, talks about consumer issues. But this is no consumer issue, it’s a business topic with complicated and far-reaching consequences.
Huffington Post’s journalistic transgression is even worse, if more expected. As nothing more than a content farm driving AOL’s helpless business model, Arianna’s Huffington Post has proven itself as unworthy of the word “journalism” and untrustworthy
But for the moment let stop worrying about the decline of journalism and move onto the business issues.
Business changes. Period. Relative to property ownership, I’ve written here twice, both times about the idea of discontinuing mortgage payments as a business decision. It may seem radical, but just like turning the discount for early payment option on its head, it’s a modern form of real business change.
So what’s the business change issue that The Consumerist and Huffington Post should have paid attention to in this story?
I’ve been a landlord a couple of times, and what I’ve learned is that the landlord business is no place for dabblers. But when I’ve found myself the owner of real estate I wasn’t using and wasn’t able to sell at an acceptable price I’ve offset expenses by letting tenants live in places that formerly served as my home. And here’s what I’ve learned:
In many jurisdictions, landlords have no rights.
I speak not from the perspective of an attorney (I’m not one), but as a pragmatic and as-objective-as-I-can-be business consultant. So I can tell you more than a little about how in New Jersey, if you have trouble with a tenant, including them damaging your property and not paying rent, you have no recourse other than to sue them and lose more money while you wait around for the legal process to grind along. It seems from the video at CBS11 and Huffington Post’s and Consumerist’s weak attempts at journalism that the same problem exists in Texas.
But that doesn’t matter, here.
Assuming that there’s any accuracy whatsoever in the original CBS11 story, the owner of this house didn’t rent out her real estate to a tenant, but instead hired a company that in the course of doing their job of staging the home in the best possible light for sale, did a very bad job.
Now that doesn’t give the home owner any new rights; I’m pretty sure that if she was brash enough to attempt what’s called a “self-help eviction” she’d create legal problems for herself far worse than the problems she’s having with the staging company.
But notice that I didn’t say “problems with her tenant”, because she has no tenant. She has a management company that in the course of doing their job took on a tenant and is responsible for making things right for the homeowner.
Sometimes, business change is as simple as just looking at things from new angles.
I’m sure the staging company is telling the homeowner something different. But I’m also sure that in the end, she’ll beat them in court and because the business between them is a transaction that has nothing to do with tenancy she’ll win—and be able to compel the staging company to make her whole, financially.
There simply was no human interest/consumerism/faux journalism story here.