The role of media has been a subject of endless discussion. A lot of people believe that it should report the facts as they are and let the public form their own opinion. But we all know that’s not how things work in reality. In fact, every story that journos report is coloured in their personal opinion. What is taken as a fact by gullible public is actually tinted by the personal belief of the reporter. What’s more, there are plenty of punks who know how to twist facts and use media to their benefit. The case in point is Barry Minkow.
A quarter century ago, this brilliant but delinquent lad started a carpet-cleaning business from the garage of his parents and soon branched out into "insurance restoration" services as well as home carpet cleaning. His company, ZZZZ Best which was worth hundreds of millions of dollars (at least on paper) later turned out to be an elaborate Ponzi scheme. But a big chunk of blame for his success goes to media. Do you know why? Because Minkow had built his phony business empire by lying to credulous reporters who were so eager for a good story of a wonder-boy that they failed to check even the most basic facts.
Do you really blame the general public for believing in those glowing stories about Minkow that a number of news organizations carried? But their faith in unconfirmed stories cost investors over $100 million.
However, the truth finally caught up with Barry Minkow and he was sent to prison where he sought to reinvent himself. He came out seven and half years later and went to work at the Church at Rocky Peak in Chatsworth, California as Director of the Bible Institute and Pastor of Evangelism. Minkow 2.0 was not only a minister but also a fraud fighter, helping the FBI by starting a Fraud Discovery Institute in San Diego to uncover white collar crimes.
Inspire by the twist of the events, some of the country’s largest news organizations competed to do major stories on the redemption of Pastor Minkow. Here again, they all played right into the hands of Minkow who fed them with whatever he wanted to tell the world about himself. Had it not for the recent ruling in a Miami court, nobody would have challenged his credibility even now. And for millions, Minkow is still an upright Christian fraud-buster.
Minkow was praised by Mark Maremont, a Pulitzer Prize–winning senior editor at The Wall Street Journal, for his fraud-discovery unit who also relied on him as a source for investigative stories. But despite knowing that Barry Minkow was once again the subject of SEC scrutiny since January, Maremont has not bothered to write a word about it.
Producers of 60 Minutes that produced a flattering profile on Barry Minkow in 2005 showed no interest in setting the record correct when they were presented with evidence of Minkow’s deceit, later.
Today, we expect media to act more responsibly and judiciously so that frauds like Minkow do not succeed in manipulating it for their selfish ends.