Seven days ago I issued a retraction and apology for an article about the prospective Assistant Secretary of Defense, Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict nominee. That decision was not taken lightly. There was strong disagreement within our editorial staff about the retraction. Most team-mates felt that the article met the criteria to be published as important for the special operations community to be aware of, not overly sensationalistic, downright false, or a threat to national security.
As part of my policy of transparency as well as the maturation of our media operation, I need to update and clarify the policies, procedures, and thoughts behind what we publish and why we publish it. First, we rarely write original content. We aggregate, summarize, and deliver some of the world’s most important news to our network every day, for free. But understanding what SOFX is and does starts with an understanding of The SOFX Mission and SOFX Media’s derived mission from that.
The SOFX Mission
The SOFX Mission is to Fight Evil and Avert Suffering at Scale. SOFX Media’s subordinate mission is to provide information and connectivity of extreme relevance to practitioners of special operations and a global network of High Impact People in order to Defeat Evil and Avert Suffering.
The network’s focus is about empowering, provisioning, and connecting a global network of superheroes for life. Superheroes need to be informed about what the public is saying and thinking about them. We must celebrate our victories as a global force of good in a scalable way…so we can see and share the effects of what we do. One simple example is being able to see how a host nation soldier we trained years earlier is now fully mission capable to fight their own counter-terror battles years after left their country. We also need to know when the public thinks our shining armor is rusty. Then we can self-correct.
I won’t get into the origin of SOFX in this article but plan to over the next few Saturdays. Suffice to say, the SOFX Media operation which includes the Newsletter and Website is not the marketing arm of our recruiting service SOFX
Talent, nor our Consulting group SOFX Agency, nor our Capital Group, SOFX Capital.
SOFX MEDIA’s Specific Tasks are:
-Find, summarize, and provide Special Operations-centric and General interest news that is both valuable and sometimes difficult and time consuming to find.
-Stay as non-partisan as possible.
-Serve our readership to screen out overtly false “fake news” or overly political content. (Much of what we curate is not actually news in the classic sense of the term but opinion and content.)
To get all this done, SOFX Media employs one part time senior editor and one full-time assistant editor along with a full-time graphics technician and a copyrighting intern. Our capacity is very limited, but we strive to ensure that our article selection is politically balanced and as close to neutral without deteriorating the quality and essential parts of the story. The media operation does not even come close to carrying the weight of its cost from the advertising revenue we charge. The other SOFX companies pay for SOFX Media as a service to the community.
On News & Content Nowadays
Finding a completely neutral piece of content is almost impossible. The few completely neutral articles are bland to the point of boring and simply would not engage the younger generation of SOF who are central to our core demographic. If we only published neutral content we would become boring and irrelevant in a matter of a few short weeks. There is a reason we have a 95% post 30-day retention rate for new subscribers. We have the art of this business regarding what our audience wants to read figured out. All that said, We use mediabiasfactcheck.com (MBFC) to check on the impartiality for all news sources. MBFC employs a sliding scale from left to right (very liberal to very conservative) to grade news organizations. We strive to stay as close to center as possible, but that is not always possible and we will choose a news story from a more extreme source if the actual story is factual, relevant, and relatively free from extreme views or bias. Our editorial checks involve at least two persons, the editor, assistant editor, and sometimes myself. I have final veto authority over anything published but I am not able to check everything every day nor do I want to. I trust my team. We strive to provide our readership with news that is widely
reported elsewhere. As a result, some of the articles, especially ones from overseas sources contain misspellings or improper grammar. Raw, unfiltered news is our forte and sometimes it is not pretty.
In the past whenever we had an article that was potentially sensitive, very controversial or negatively portrays an individual or organization or topic that is part of our community of interest, we internally debated whether or not to publish and if so, should we reach out to that individual or organization for a comment. We also understand that what is sensitive, controversial, or negative is in the eye of the beholder and a judgement call.
Here is what we do not publish:
· Extremist political content from either end of the spectrum; nor will we serve as a tacit mouthpiece by printing material hinting at extreme views
· Pictures of American casualties, unnecessary carnage for carnage sake, racist comments no matter how subtle, and unsubstantiated conspiracies
· Political endorsements; even for dog catcher
· Book reviews, because we would never get out of the business of SOF related Book reviews.
Our OPED pieces, while allowing for freedom of expression and the publication of different opinions, also generally follow the criteria above, but provide a bit more latitude.
We decided that for the Media company to achieve its mission it must have the ability to aggregate, summarize, and publish content that meets the general criteria outlined even if that content is unflattering about very powerful or potentially very powerful people in the SOF and Private Military Contractor Industry. We still have a business to run, politics are real and we need to take steps to not blindside powerful people in the community. So this is what the Team and I came up with: In the future, for articles or content that is sensitive, we will offer the subject a chance to publish their own content right alongside the article we intend to distribute and also include a very visible disclaimer at the beginning of the article outlining that fact that the article in question is not our viewpoint but an aggregated piece of content we summarized. This added step will delay the publication of time sensitive news, but we would rather err on the side of fairness than haste. As a content source that strives to be non-partisan and a one-stop
resource for community relevant / industry relevant information we will at times publish content that is not popular among our readership. If we deem the controversy to be relevant and necessary for the network to be aware of, we would be failing in both our integrity and our mission not to publish it.
Thank you for your loyalty, understanding, and membership in SOFX Network.
Sam Havelock, CEO, Founder, SOFX.