Maureen Farrell is a reporter at the New York Times and the co-author of The Cult of We. The Cult of We is about the rise and fall of WeWork, which Maureen covered extensively while she was working at the Wall Street Journal. She is such an expert on the topic that she was featured in the Hulu documentary WeWork: Or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn.
Maureen is a veteran tech journalist. She graduated from Duke, got a masters from Columbia’s journalism school, and has spent more than 15 years working for publications like Forbes, CNN, the Wall Street Journal and now the New York Times.
In this conversation today, we extract some business insights from the WeWork saga, things entrepreneurs can learn - both the good and bad.
I also took this opportunity to get her raw advice on how entrepreneurs should maintain their media relationships, and Maureen was kind enough to give us a bit of a playbook.
MPD: Welcome Maureen. Thanks for being here today.
Maureen Farrell: Thanks for having me.
MPD: Okay. Before we dive in, you might just giving folks a little background, overview of your background. How did you become the person? That was covering we work?
Maureen Farrell: Sure. Happy to do that. So I've been a journalist for a long time. Since, uh, you and I graduated duke a long time ago, don't admit it.
But I've been at the wall street journal for about eight years. And for a lot of them I've been covering startups, capital markets, IPU. And over the last several years in general covering IPOs, there's just a small cohort of companies that were the most interesting of all these companies that were going to go public Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, but we work in that category.
So we were, I was diving deep into these companies and you know, their experiences with the capital markets. So I started looking at rework and I saw a colleague of mine, Elliott brown, where I wrote the book. Was covering, he had been a commercial real estate reporter and had become obsessed with the whole WIWORK story and Adam Newman.
And there were so many flattering profiles of Adam Newman in particular. He had written a lot of stories, questioning the company and the valuation and everything else. So we wound up teaming up a lot in 2018 and on our reporting, I jumped in as it was getting closer to IPO.
SoftBank was giving we work billions upon billions of dollars. So that's what sort of led me to the book specifically. We kept on working on stories through 2019. We work I was going to go public. It was, the high point is the IPO reporter. This is the moment. And then the IPO debacle that never wasn't IPL just became the most insane story of my entire career.
MPD: Okay. And so that, that hooked you and you decided you were going to lean in?
Maureen Farrell: Yes, exactly. We it basically over a weekend Elliott and I have been started talking about, maybe we could write a book on this. What do you think? So we've worked on like a paragraph or two. Then Adam Newman really suddenly resigned.
We've been just following the story, writing stories around the clock for a few weeks. And we Elliot and talked to an agent, an incredible agent that we've worked with. And he, Eric worked for, he wound up getting an offer and based on our two paragraphs, we had a book deal and like couple of days later.
So it was a whirlwind, but an exciting one. And I don't think there's ever been a topic I've been as excited. It's been a year or two working on.
MPD: It's fascinating. Let's talk about why it was so exciting. There are plenty of debacles in the startup community. I, I have this as an entrepreneur in VC.
I have this love hate with some of the negative press around failures in entrepreneurship, because failing is part of our program. We need to be able to fail safely in order to take risks that encourage people to get back up and keep trying. And there's plenty of debacles, but this one, I think caught people's eye in a different way.
So why is this more of an interesting story than all of the other startups that have burned along the way? And he works still around and thriving right there. They're not where they were, but this one seems to have caught the public's imagination. So why is that? Sure.
Maureen Farrell: And I'll answer this in two parts because I think you make a great point.
The merits of failure. And I do have to say maybe you don't see this as much of the press, but I do think there is like an American capitalism and the startup culture. There is some sort of, there is a level of respect for the entrepreneur that you know, ha how to fail and how to failure too, that you've learned so much from them.
So I guess, first of all, take the part about what makes this different. I think first of all, There were questions, basically the, not the center of gravity, the foundation of this business was just really never there. When you, if you look at it, essentially it you know, it was never a company that had that.
It was predicated on this idea that it was a tech company, not a real estate company. And from very early on, if you look at the business model of we work and there's some things you just can't deny about the cost. Building these businesses, it's never going to have the same effect as a tech company where you can spend money and eventually the profits come because you don't have to keep on spending a lot of money to develop the software.
You can just sell it. Like we were just didn't have a model. You had to build out offices all over the world. There's just a finite amount of profits. So a lot of this was predicated on just wrong ideas. This business. And essentially what happens here on so many ways was, you have this absolutely charismatic entrepreneur, Adam Newman, who blinded people to the realities of the business and let some of the top venture firms, some of the top investors, the world and you'd venture firms like benchmark soft bank.
MPD: JP Morgan, great firms with very bright people. Exactly
Maureen Farrell: who just all were willing to buy into this vision and just keep on throwing more and more money at this company. I mean, I think it was a few different things. Number one, the amount of money put towards. That ultimately, was lost in so many ways at the time of the IPO.
You're right. This is a thriving business now, but this became a company that was valued at $47 billion. Adam Newman, the CEO was telling people he was being told by bankers on wall street, that this was going to be an $80 billion company, a hundred billion dollar company. It was going to take over the world.
And it was just a lot was. Just not real. And I think it was the dangers of the Silicon valley culture right now, this tech world that, just sort being blinded to business realities and a hope and a dream of things. There's many companies that made it work, but there is a certain, there's some certain fundamental business metrics that you have to.
So I think and the accesses of Adam Newman in particular, we can get into them more, but things like there's been covering startups and I'm sure and has seen this mark, like there's barely any startups where the CEO, they buy a private jet. And there's this company that was not even close to making a profit burning money.
And they board of directors approved Adam Newman having his own reworked, private jet, $65 million before the company had gone public. And he flew it all over the world a lot on his personal, to go surfing all over the world. And then Adam Newman also took hundreds of millions of dollars out of the company.
So selling stuff. Borrowing against the company to the tune of more than a billion dollars before anyone else was able to take money out. Not before a lot of people were able to in a big way. So I think there were all these contradictions.
MPD: There's a lot to unpack there. I want to talk about the first thing you said, which I think is fascinating and always thought it was part of the story as an outsider to the WIWORK journey, this idea of a crossover company companies that.
Are not tech, do not have what we'll call exponential resource efficiency. That's the fancy venture term for it. For every additional dollar they spend, they can make incrementally more profits as they scale. That's not the dynamic of the math of a real estate business, like you said, is, you spend a dollar, you make 50 cents, you spend another dollar, you make 50 more cents.
It's linear. How does a come, how did we work? Do you think they did they achieve this crossover status where they were being valued as a high growth venture company when they were a high growth real estate company?
Maureen Farrell: I think that, what you're, what you're asking is like the essential question of you know, what works for so long Adam Newman's ability to convince people of this crossover of.
When it didn't exist. And just the just the wildness of this story, basically, this is what underpins it all. I think a lot of it was purely his charisma and we are in this world and I'd love to hear more what you think on this, but, founders, there's this sort of aura around founders and a lot of ways that, give them money.
If you're brilliant enough, you could be visionary enough. You can just figure it out. And I think Adam Newman knew had a, just tell a better and better story. And I think he could just take it that, we work was not a real estate company at all. It was a tech company. It was, he somehow knew how to take the verbiage of the moment at each step of the way and use that to convince investors that the promise of this.
Like early on, he called it the physical social network. It was like a space book was going public and is valued so high. And then he was eventually calling in an artificial intelligence company, which is like their tech was so it was very unsophisticated. But the it's what Florida us writing the book.
I think each step of the way is, it wasn't. Fraud really. These investors, these, as we said, some of the most sophisticated investors in the world, they had access to the financials. So we saw so many of his presentations. He was promising the moon and the stars and, profitability like Amazon and a couple of years, but he did that from the beginning.
And investors also had access to his, what he said he was going to do, but also his financial. And if you look, they never achieved any of the things they set out two years later, but he could say what he wants may have wrong numbers in front of them to look at. And one of the interesting things that we noticed in many different situations you can take fidelity, the neutral funds.
You can take soft bank and a lot of cases that the analysts like lower-level analysts were punching the numbers. Would look at them and say, this is crazy. This business doesn't make sense. None of the things he's saying makes sense, but then the main person in decision-maker empower you in almost every case.
And the man in power would say, okay, whatever, thanks for telling me that we're just going to invest any, they would overlook it. And it was like, we, we see something in Adam that you
MPD: don't see. I think from the VC side of this, I think there is some psychology, not just around the founder.
But around the other VCs who have already invested or writing a check into the round right. Ventures or hard business, right? W when I'm fundraising or talking to folks, I'll often say a phrase, I'll say, look, only in baseball at InVenture is batting 300. Awesome. Because, in high school, 30% of the math quizzes.
Uh, but, but in this world of the blind, where a lot of people don't know how to find consistent returns and how to identify clear winners, there is some signaling that people look to in the, who else is investing in the deal. And so when something, when a founder is able to grab a whole bunch of really sharp, big name firms with really smart people, that's pretty convincing to a lot of other future investors.
And it does create a bit of a, an interesting dynamic in situations like this, where I don't know how people made decisions, but people might've been looking and saying yes, you're saying analyst that the numbers are wrong, but this other venture firm can't be wrong. Cause they're incredible.
It's almost like a proof point having capital from some of the biggest names.
Maureen Farrell: I think you're right on this. Like the signaling effect, the echo chamber. It just gets. Dangerous there really. When it just seems like there was something to the effect of outsourcing the decision-making like you, you get the benchmark side of approval on a company and other people are, at least aren't afraid to go in.
It's they've gotten so many things, as you said, and they're like, MVP is from, having certain huge winners. So why not just trust them?
MPD: Yeah. It's created an interesting thing strategically in the venture. Not particularly we work, but just broadly, there are some firms that have so much sway with how other investors invest, that they almost act as kingmakers for companies.
If Sequoia writes a check into your company, they're very good at investing. Almost everyone else is going to be predisposed to writing a check. And so it's almost as though some firms, I think have the potential to turn companies with no potential into successes just by lending their. And it's, that's obviously a bit of an extreme comment, but it's a very powerful position of authority in the venture
Maureen Farrell: It's it's an amazing thing. It's turned them into successes, but also just get, have money racing to these companies, which doesn't always necessarily translate into winners. Ultimately, the sort of the following the crowd, the herd mentality is just incredibly interesting to me.
MPD: So after this has hit, the, the bomb kind of went off this thing detonated.
It seems like people have done a pretty good job of recalibrating the business and setting it up to be a standalone operating entity with some prospects now, post COVID. Do you feel like people are post, I'm sure you have strong, it sounds like you have strong opinions about Adam and the management team.
Do you think the broader community of employees are being treated fairly? One thing that I struggle with is I look, we work has become a, you know, a Scarlet letter and there's a lot of really smart people who were there, who are off building companies now are doing other stuff. And it's almost, I've seen a couple of times where they're bashed.
They're degraded by saying, X we work, whatever. Do you think that's, you how do you view the post-mortem on this and how it's affecting the ecosystem?
Maureen Farrell: Sure. So I guess a couple of things on that, I can completely agree with you. Among Adam Newman's talent on the talent that was there.
He was an incredibly talented entrepreneur in many ways of getting the top, getting the investment money, flowing to we weren't getting the world's top investors. He also managed to recruit some of them like the best employees from each individual fields. And I mean, I think that's the, that was one, one of the tragedies of this whole thing, I think, it's like he brought these really amazing people from Hussein and even people I spoke to, whether you're an architect or in finance or a lawyer.
A lot of people said this company was nuts and there's frustrations with Adam taking so much money out, sorta leading the company's downfall. But many people were like, I learned more and it was the most fun job I will ever have in my life. I mean, I think it's frustrating to look at his takeaway from this whole thing.
He thought this insane exit package, all these people work for years and who knows what their stock options, if anything will ultimately. But in terms of the stigma on we work, it's interesting that you were seeing this because I it's hard to tell yet because it does seem like a number of the employees.
It did really foster an entrepreneurial culture in journaling. So it does seem like a lot of really interesting companies are being launched by people, their former employees. So I think it's a bit too early to tell. I mean, to your point on failure, it's pretty, it seems like it would be.
Crazy on someone else to not want to hire a WeWork employee. Cause it was like, just as such a spectacular rise appraisee fall, but the lessons learned there. If you think any business, if you can learn from failure, it's pretty incredible ones have learned from the failures and not.
And just to jump into one other thing, I think I just want to go back to the point that you made on failure. How this all, and you, your point about, the media may be getting too deep into failures or writing about them
MPD: in some cases.
Maureen Farrell: But I think here is the sort of turning a blind eye to some of the questions here by everyone.
One of the things, one of the takeaways from this story, Is you know, I'll give credit to Adam Newman for the rise and for a lot of the fall, but you have this, these incredible investors that like, uh, top level, very high level board of directors who signed off on every single decision, many big decisions, like getting a plane, the money he took out of the company.
And it, one of the things I wonder a lot is, how many other people could have done what Adam Newman did building this company? And what if the people around him had done their job? He pushed things as far as they could. What if the, he had the guard rails in place that could have kept him doing these amazing things, but stopped him from overreaching.
And what, if the board and top management and others probably acted as they should have. And so that's one of the things that we really hope is the takeaway from this is what could this company have been? And you know, what could the, what promises could have been achieved here?
MPD: That's very interesting.
So there's some good and the bad. I want to just touch on those and take some lessons learned. You've studied this more closely than most. So taking it as a case study here, focusing on the bad for a second, there was some governance failures. What are the, some of the things you saw and, any insights for other board members, listening entrepreneurs, listening about how to think about governance and I'll throw anecdotally on this.
I have a feeling in that type of situation was such a high rise company with a charismatic leader. There's fear, I don't know. I'm projecting here and I don't know the dynamic at all. But I imagine if you've got, if you believe Adam is the company and he wants a $65 million jet, it's as ludicrous as that might sound, that may be is a complicated decision.
If you feel like it's a risk, any thoughts on how boards can be more effective in dealing with these types of situations? So we've got Theranose. So the news right now, there's a lot of governance opportunity right now, or lessons learned properly to stare up.
Maureen Farrell: So I do think it was fear of standing up to him, fear of there is something to the effect of, it sounded like in many cases, let's throw up our hands.
What can we really do as a board member? Adam Newman has founder control. He had these super, like these pollutant voting shares. So theoretically he can overrule us so fine. We'll just go along. And I mean, in the case of WIWORK, what I'll say is the examples are so egregious that I'll just I'll keep one going right after the IPO.
Elliot, my coauthor and I heard at like Adam Newman, miss some board meeting. So he said, wow, that's like crazy. Maybe if the fact that if he missed a board meeting or two leading up to the IPO, We should try to find out what it is like that's unimaginable is the biggest thing in the company's history.
When we dug further, it turned out he barely went to board meetings for a year and a half. And we had minutes, we saw it was like not present Adam Newman at board meeting after board meeting. And we heard eventually someone said, oh one of the directors slipped out of Adam and said he has to start coming to board meetings.
Guessing on this was the week before the failed IPO. That's when they liked. And it was one of the reasons one of the board members slipped out at him was that he had appointed a new board member. They were, people were very upset when all that, about a million things that are asked one, the IPO filing once it was made public, but among them was this mission-driven company.
How do you have all white men on your board? So at the very last minute, Adam decided to appoint a Harvard business school professor who had worked as a consultant to the company. He, her name is Francis fry. He appoints or doesn't tell the board. And they, that was like the last straw. So one of the board members split that at him was like, you have to start coming to board meetings and you can't do this.
But it was like past these high level, really esteem numbers of the business community. That they would like, just the, just the symbolic value. And there was so much more than that of him not showing up, like how little value. So I mean, we work it's so agregious, but I don't know. We're in this tough moment that it's, you barely see any companies with better, like doing really well at fundraising and seemingly doing really well that the founders aren't able to get.
That's super boning shares and the more rights. And that seems like commonly accepted, but it's dangerous. And a lesson for board members is it, even if they have all the power, you can still vote, like even symbolically you can, you don't have to go along with everything. You can cast a vote against some of these things.
It seems like that it's hard to imagine that women would change things a bit. If someone, you're going with a boat, stood up the.
MPD: Well, there was some positive things in this, and I'm not trying to put a positive spin on it here, but the reason it got to be such a big deal is because they had these huge successes in a couple dimensions.
What can having studied this? What could other founders learn about culture building? Because obviously it seems pretty unparalleled what they achieved in the community and all that. Now I'm sure they wasted a lot of money doing that, but anything that was like a key takeaway where you saw this and you're like, they did this incredibly well.
And other companies should do it, obviously, not copy all the lessons, but copy that dimension.
Maureen Farrell: I think this, this whole idea of culture uh, really feeling he had something, Adam Newman had something very right and this idea of community. People, people want to be in the, and we realized that so much more as we're starting even star for it during the candida.
But I think he hit everything. He needs the rhetoric around community at we work. People for the most part loves being part of the, we were community. I think employees, there was something that they wanted that they found there, especially like early on. So I think there is something in either just fostering a culture and making people feel like they have a common mission.
Getting people excited about that. Up to a point. I think it really worked so well and people felt like they were all going after something so much bigger, what they were building and it lemons to do incredible things. The piece of building openings like that, and that was the thing about Adam.
He's an incredibly inspiring leader and he would tell people, okay, we're going to open 10 buildings and people, it would be impossible. Some of the goals he said, and people would do them. Cause you've worked around the clock for him to see him get you so inspired and so excited about that.
There's like there's charisma, there's something that's, hard to, um, Completely fall on that. It's, some of it, I think is a little bit like in neat than certain leaders, but I think it is like making people feel like they're part of something bigger. If you can run a company is just so can take, you know, it's more important that people, employees that I think other than money than other things, it can really make them feel like they're part of something bigger.
MPD: It seems like that's the common thread in his super power, right from the fundraising to it's all. A form of sales, successfully raised money with audacious promises and successfully built a culture. Getting up, giving speeches, the whole thing, not everyone's got that gene. There's a lot of great CEOs out there who don't have that, but it seems like he had it in spades.
Okay. Can we switch on for a second? I want to talk a little bit about your journey on the book. I got the story from you earlier, why you wrote the book? Is this a, we work part of your careers. This is going to be one of the, kind of the mountains that you'll look back on in your timeline, or is this a chapter?
And you've had many other chapters like this and more to come. How does this fit in your world?
Maureen Farrell: I mean, this is probably just the most fun thing I've ever gotten to do, and most interesting things that journalists. Especially at the wall street journal, I felt so lucky I've had the chance to tackle some really interesting stories and go pretty deep on them have amazing colleagues.
But I do, I guess I do feel like this is a true mountain. There's never, I've never had as much time to dive so deep into a story. Love the process of writing the book. It was, uh, we really had the chance to Elliot and I to just talk to hundreds of people. So it was like the litany of people at every corner of the world we were in at the fundraising world.
So it, yeah, it was incredibly enjoyable and it felt luxurious. It was like you're backing college. You really know the the true, like specifics of where you want to go with everything you're learning. Well, we split up the book. We split up chapters. We worked on a lot of things together, there's this chapter on mutual funds.
And it was like, wow, it's a week or two to read, like every single thing imaginable about mutual funds. Or I spend weeks talking to everyone I could imagine in relation to Masayoshi. So I'm the CEO and founder of SoftBank and learning his history and the people who've known him along the way. Um, as a journalist, you don't, it feels lucky to be writing the first draft of history as they say, as it happens, but to have the chance to have written it as it happened, but go back and realize, in some cases we thought we knew a situation that happened.
And then we talked to more people in the room, or like constantly you would happen. Like every other day we were like, this is you go deeper and you learn more crazy things.
MPD: It was fascinating. Did you take off work to do this? Was this. You stepped out to write the book. I'd imagine this is pretty on
Maureen Farrell: I did, we wound up so this all, a lot of this data out there, the fall of Adam Newman and the IPO happened in September of 2019.
So we basically stayed on until February and a lot of our work. We did some big, bigger stories on this. So a lot, we got to take a lot of time to continue to unpack this story. But in February, 2020, we built at six months of book leave. And it was funny. I started, it was like, gosh, it'd be so weird working from home and a little bit, I know in two weeks we all are like, or
It became normal. I I'd love to get your advice on some stuff here for folks listening. There's going to be a lot of entrepreneurs and VCs listening. There's no good training guide in the startup community for navigating. The PR media side of the house. There's a lot written about building SAS companies and hiring talent, but there's just not a lot of good guidance out there.
You're living in this and you have for a long time. What advice do you have for founders who want to get their story out? How did they do that? Sure.
Maureen Farrell: I guess one of the things I think founders should be the most careful about is in terms of PR there are, it does seem. And I used to cover startups much more.
I still work at Forbes. I covered startups a little more specifically. I've noticed in cases. Sometimes you hire a PR firm to get the word out and they just blanket reporters with emails to a way that I think can be almost like harmful to the brand of a company. It just feels like there's not, there's amazing people on PR.
I, I have a lot of very close relationships with people who I think are just incredibly smart, but I think there are firms where it's just will like spam. You essentially emails about this founder. And I've talked to some founders about this and I don't think they quite realize what it's see from the other side.
And, there are people without the relationships, without the, making the calls. And I think in some cases, I don't know so much about the cost structure of it, but if you're getting started, if I got an email from a CEO telling me his or her story a little bit, I'm probably more likely to see it, try to respond than if it's from just seems like a spam email from a random PR shop.
If I don't know that. And they're, as a journalist, you are loving with pitches it's I mean, especially startup journalists. Really unbelievable. I still will be flooded with like emails that things not even related to what I'm covering. So I think that's the first thing. Like people should just be really careful about the use.
Secondly, I would say it's very, it's a long game. Like everything. And as an entrepreneur, like any smart entrepreneur values, their relationships, customers with employees, with everyone, long-term what matters in terms of your relationships. I would think about the media like that too. If you can start to take the time to forge relationships with people who cover something that you're right.
That you're what you're working on, that where your company is in. A number of different people, but do it as a relationship rather than saying can you please write my story and see you know, can I be a resource for you? You start to build relationships. And I think over the longterm, having those are like will be helpful and you probably will get much more press more organically that way than going after a pitch for a specific story.
MPD: Now a lot of entrepreneurs already understand the relationship concept and they do it in the business world. Not on the media side. I think where people get lost is they're not sure how to communicate or add value or interface with journalists. And not a lot of entrepreneurs. It's Hey, let's get coffee.
We go out for coffee and then, or we have a meeting and then everyone's trying to help each other. But the types of help is commonly understood. It's certain types of introductions or other than. What's the framework that entrepreneurs should have for thinking about how to start relationship building with journalists.
Maureen Farrell: I think you do it in very similar ways. Go after a coffee and learn about what they cover, how they think about coverage, how, and try to understand how you fit into it. Would this person, do they write profiles? Or do they write more thematic stories? What are they thinking about?
How can you be helpful? How, like, how could you also get your story told, but they don't do it, that they have ideas of who could tell your story? I think a lot of journalists I'm, everyone's busy on both sides obviously, but if you take the time and then it's, sort of organically follow up from there.
I th I think it's more similar to the relationship building in other areas and networking. As an entrepreneur then most people would think, and then, it's like the way you've forged, the deeper relationships that I think are more fruitful, longer term too.
MPD: So one of the things I tell entrepreneurs, or any anyone, frankly, who wants to get into VC is I always tell them, come bearing gifts.
And so you, when you go to meet a VC, it's Hey, show up with a deal. Even if they don't like it, just to show that you can find stuff and you're there to have. What kind of gifts do journalists want?
Maureen Farrell: First of all, that's such a great phrase and such a good way of thinking about it. How would say now, like industry knowledge and understanding.
If you could have a broad broad conversations about like interesting things going on. I think you need to start with a very open conversation about. What things, read, read up on what they cover and understand what they want to know. And you, at your fingertips at the moment of your conversation have more like a wealth of info so much more than you could imagine that that they don't.
So I, I feel like the guests are um, you know, this is how things work. This is what you're not seeing. This is a crazy story. Like just over the course of the conversation with some openness. It's, they're really like the gift is your own knowledge and you, most entrepreneurs would have that.
Plus, the connections on both ways, like how you might want to talk to this startup person. They, if you're interested in this, they know this and vice versa. And again the journalists say, oh you know, maybe I'm not covering this, but maybe this person that my publication, or you might want to tap this publication is better at profiles or
MPD: It all sounds makes sense. It sounds familiar, but I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with it. So there's a fear, right? I think a lot of entrepreneurs and founders have fear that they're going to talk to a journalist and something bad is going to be written, or they're going to say the wrong thing.
There's anxiety. Within the business community sometimes or on talking to journalists any watch outs. And I know a lot of, that's not real. What should people who are building these relationships be careful about not doing sure.
Maureen Farrell: I guess I would say from the first moment you want to set the ground rules on both sides.
If, and it's fine, I'm pretty open to talking with people on background. I just feel like. Especially entrepreneurs who, you're getting started. My opinion is, and I would say most people like you don't want to burn anyone at all, especially not someone who's just trying to look to build something exciting, but as an entrepreneur for safety or anyone really set that, make sure you instantly understand the ground who will say, are we, is this just background?
MPD: What does that mean background for folks listening?
Maureen Farrell: Sure. So that just means can we talk, nothing's attributable to me, you're not going to use my name, unless you say otherwise, you're not going to you know, say my company necessarily, can we just have an open conversation and either that works or it doesn't and if not, and then editing needs to be much more careful.
Obviously, if this is like a fully on the record conversations to be used. A story, anything that's fine. You might want to just then picture everything you're saying in prince and just make sure you're a payment that as you go. But I think a lot of journalists are open to these sort of just background conversations.
Cause you, you learn more on people just feel like they can be, especially when there's no agenda at the moment. If you're having these internal conversation, I'm almost always happy doing it on background. Let's just talk, let's get to know each other. Don't censor yourself. Like we'll just talk and
MPD: Find things to cover and you can get into it.
Maureen Farrell: those boundaries are key. And I would assume if, once you set them assume most journalists are gonna be true to their word, because the big thing is if you burn a source ever, you're done. I think, I, I mean, I go so far and especially in some of the things that I'm working on, like the work and others that like, I protect people from themselves sometimes, especially, people who maybe tell you something, maybe, they were the only person that ruined something where they could, it can really negatively impact them.
But I, but I think just journalists go out of their way. You don't want to ever be in a position where a source has gotten in trouble for something that they've told you that. So I think as soon that the ground rules are the ground rules and you should trust
MPD: people, can you explain why it's harmful to a journalist, if a source gets burned, because it has that word, how does the word get out?
I think people want to understand the mechanism of how the system encourages journalists to follow the code. And so they can feel comfortable saying, okay, we're on background. I understand what that means. Let me dive in and I know that everyone's going to honor it because it's new language. It's new territory for a lot of the businesses.
Maureen Farrell: I think you can say it a few times, making sure my name won't appear. I will know otherwise, if it ever will, you'll tell me, you'll give me a heads up first. If there's ever a boat, maybe in journalists might say no to this, but it's you give me a chance to review it and then you could say, okay, Those terms.
That's fine. I just, I don't want to be quoted, but in terms of the honor code, the world is so small. If I like you tell me something in secret mark that you don't want told you, tell me that like something Y like Adam Newman took out $400 million. He sold that much in stock. And I say mark and mark said that I quote you on that or who you are.
It is just such an out of bounds thing or in any way, when you cross a line that you promised someone, I think the word gets out. I think you just, you lose all credibility as a journalist on forward,
MPD: right? So the good journalists for the business folks listening. If you're talking to someone at a legit institution, who's got a background of the business and you guys agree and like on a spit handshake on what the terms are of the engage.
They're an honor it, and so people can build those relationships and feel comfortable. This is an important thing. I think a lot of the business people, this is one of the hangups. I think this is the barrier to why they're not building the relationships in a non spammy way, as you talked about before.
Anyway, thank you for the advice on that. So what's next for you, right? You've got a. You've done big things in your career already. You've got a long way ahead. What do you, what are you looking to do?
Maureen Farrell: What's next for me? Is I and leaving the wall street journal. Very sadly. I've been there almost eight years.
It's been an incredible. Time there. I have incredible colleagues management, everyone, but I'm going to join the New York times in October. And I'm also very excited to join, join the newspaper, the publication, and I'll be covering sort of private capital more broadly hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds, PE firms.
Looking forward to doing longer enterprise stories there. And that's the next immediate step.
MPD: We look forward to reading what you write. Thank you. Thanks for being on. It was great to have
Maureen Farrell: you. Thank you so much for having me.
MPD: All right. That was awesome. I hope everyone got some actionable tips out of this and found it helpful. If you liked what you heard. Please look us up with a like, or a five star review and feel free to share with a friend. You can find me on Twitter at MPD, and to hear more of my conversations with innovators, subscribe on YouTube.
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