Forbes magazine unveils a new look this week, with a redesigned issue on newsstands tomorrow featuring its signature Forbes 400 list, but for a sense of how much the company has changed since Lewis D'Vorkin took over as chief content officer earlier this year, you need only witness the reaction to the previous issue's cover story.
That story, in which conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza argued that President Obama inherited an anti-colonial ethos and anti-business bias from his father, provoked an outcry that went all the way up to the White House, with Obama administration spokesman Robert Gibbs calling it "a new low." Forbes told the Washington Post that it was standing by the story -- but that stance was not monolithic.
Instead, some Forbes contributors have been using the new blogs they've been given to express their misgivings. Shikha Dalmia, an analyst at the libertarian Reason Foundation, called D'Souza's thesis "intellectual goofiness" and said his article suffered from "factual inaccuracies" -- the latter in running up against Forbes's official assertion that "[n]o facts are in contention." (D'Souza has, in fact, conceded one factual error involving the timing of Obama's visit to Pakistan.)
On Wednesday, a Forbes staffer, copy editor and book reviewer Craig Silver, followed that up with an even more sharply-worded critique: He calls D'Souza's piece "a stupefyingly inane, quasi-racist bomb-toss" that was "utterly devoid of intellectual probity" -- and that's just some of it. I asked Silver whether he'd gotten any unfavorable response to his post from Forbes's management. "No push-back so far," he told me.
It's hard to imagine this sort of intramural back-and-forth being tolerated, much less encouraged, at the old Forbes. But it's exactly the sort of ferment that D'Vorkin sought to catalyze at True/Slant, the blog network he founded and sold to Forbes Media, and whose architecture now serves as the framework for its online growth. (I was among True/Slant's paid contributors.)
D'Souza addressed outside criticisms of his story on his own Forbes.com blog, but he has yet to respond to his colleagues' brickbats.
A New Era at Forbes: Staffer Calls Cover Story 'Stupefyingly Inane'