Sarah Lacy: Modern Journalist

It is hard to describe the disaster that befell Sarah Lacy at the SxSW conference in Austin this week. In an interview with the often-tight-lipped Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Lacy managed to single-handedly turn her audience into an angry mob, wielding Twitter posts like pitchforks and torches, all aimed at her head. Zuckerberg rarely steps into the limelight; thanks to all the company's recent privacy missteps, he tends to be more of a marked man than an interesting field exemplar. In this case, Lacy's lack of polish gave him the ultimate dodge. Facebook PR: this was a dream. If you have the time, take a break and watch the whole thing here. At about the three-quarter mark, it gets very interesting.


For more Sarah Lacy goodness, head here: Facebook is All Grown Up. In it, she takes her low-brow sorority chiq to turn an 'interview' between her and a grown-up into a name-drop-a-thon in which she completely destroys the thread of the discussion by turning herself into a pundit.

This is not a discussion of Sarah Lacy as an accomplished media personality. It's a sad reality check on the level of acceptable behavior that comes with finding yourself both a reporter of news and a celebrity yourself.

With Zuckerberg, the audience was not amused. Enough so that many began to yell out questions themselves, rather than listen to Lacy's self-aggrandizing inner-circle-speak. Her public response in the interview? "You guys try doing what I do for a living. It's not as easy as it looks, OK?"

Where Sarah went sideways.

  1. She shunned any healthy respect for her audience. From the interview questions, and the direction she took the discussion early on, it was clear she had her own agenda for the Facebook founder and showed little interest in the caliber of both social and technical expertise in the room. To be fair, Zuckerberg likely had put some constraints on the kinds of questions Lacy could ask -- it's a reasonable PR expectation. But her dismissal of the audience heckling showed a rampant disrespect for her listeners and her role in addressing their needs.

  2. She is not a humble person. I had never followed Sarah Lacy. I'd heard of her and read her blog from time to time when linked. In catching up on her work, it is clear that she is a media personality first, and a journalist a very distant... let's say... fifth. She'll be a great addition to "Inside Edition" one day. Once the audience revolts, concede and rebuild the relationship. Simply spitting in the fire will not put it out.

  3. She pretended it never happened. On her Twitter feed: "seriously screw all you guys. I did my best to ask a range of things." That, for Lacy, appears to be where the story ends. In the post-keynote interview between Zuckerberg and Lacy, the interview falls soundly back into PR speak, her nodding acceptance of his every word punctuated with a resounding "Uh-huh" precisely ever three seconds. Her questions completely ignorant of the events preceding this interview, which had occurred minutes prior on the keynote stage.

Becoming a savvy interviewer takes a great deal of media training and experience in front of a camera. If her ego can handle it, this experience is a ripe learning opportunity on how to handle yourself professionally, maturely, clearly, and confidently online, in the media, on camera, and in life.