When Not to Publish

By Mark Roberti

Sometimes, it's better to hold a story and get it right than to rush it into print.


Inditex‘s Zara stores and warehouses began employing radio frequency identification in 2009. I learned about this in 2010, but RFID Journal first wrote about it on July 17 of this year (see Inditex CEO Announces RFID Expansion Plans, The Meaning of a Retail CEO’s Comments on RFID and Tyco Wins Chain-wide Contract From Inditex). Although I was aware of the deployment, we did not publish a story about it for four years.

Some journalists would say that’s crazy. But when we contacted Inditex, the company declined to speak to us on or off the record about the project, and also prohibited the RFID system’s supplier, Tyco Retail Solutions, from discussing it publicly. That was frustrating, but faced with no reliable source that would go on the record, we felt we could not publish a story at that time.

More recently, RFID Journal‘s executive editor, Paul Prince, learned of a major expansion by a U.S.-based retailer. We had documents from a supplier that spelled out some of the details and contacted the company. It declined to comment, but we felt we had enough information to write an article based on the instructions sent to suppliers.

Still, I was concerned that the story might not be 100 percent factually accurate. I asked our reporter to send the article to the company’s public relations department. It passed the article to the RFID team, and I received an e-mail from a person on that team, letting me know there were some inaccuracies in how we interpreted the retailer’s plans, and asking that we not publish an article for a few months, until the company was ready. I agreed.

The way I look at it, RFID Journal is here to serve our readers‘ best interests—both the end-user community and the RFID solution provider community. Publishing stories first is great and can drive traffic to our site. But giving readers false information, or information that we are not 100 percent certain is accurate, does not serve the industry well, in my view.

I realize that a lot of journalists do not care about the facts, and that some would not recognize facts if they tripped over them. But I believe that ensuring accuracy is not just the right thing to do—it is also good for business. If people know they can trust what they read at RFID Journal, then they will continue to read our articles. If they find out what we published isn’t true, then we become just another one of millions of questionable information sources on the Web. So while I hate to invest time in our staff researching, writing, editing, copy-editing and proofreading an article, only to then hold it for months, I hate publishing erroneous information even more.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor’s Note archive or RFID Connect.