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Writing whatever they say: MLive and Amway

February 14, 2018

On Monday, MLive ran what I hesitate to call a piece of journalism. The posting on February 12, was entitled, Amway’s 2017 revenues show sales on ‘right track,’ say leaders

The posting is based on an “interview” that MLive reporter Shandra Martinez did with the Amway co-CEOs Steve Van Andel and Doug DeVos.

A second posting was also done on February 12, entitled, How Amway is appealing to a younger generation

This second MLive posting, was rather brief and included a 1minute and 31 second interview with the heads of Amway, Steve Van Andel and Doug DeVos, which you can watch below. In fact, the posting essentially regurgitates what Van Andel and DeVos had to say in what MLive refers to as an “interview.”

MLive repeated this process in a posting from February 13, entitled, 50 percent of Amway’s revenues now come from e-commerce.

In fact, MLive will no doubt post 2 additional pieces based on the same “interview” that MLive reporter Shandra Martinez conducted with the second generation Amway CEOs, based on these other videos from the same “interview.”

After watching the four videos, it is painfully clear that MLive fundamentally is acting solely as a stenographer, simply writing what the Amway executives have to say. There is only once instance, where the MLive reporter can be heard asking a question, which is a softball question, about what Van Andel and DeVos thought about the new corporate tax breaks.

Imagine what a serious journalist would have asked? Imagine what information or insight would have been gained from a serious, investigative article? Imagine what impact that might have on the public’s view of the the Amway corporation and the DeVos and Van Andel families that are plastered on every other building in downtown Grand Rapids? Well, you will have to keep imagining, since the MLive reporter failed to practice anything that remotely resembled journalism, which we will elaborate on here. 

First, it is important to ask ourselves how MLive can claim these postings are anything that resembles journalism. It’s as if the MLive reporter just sat down with the Amway CEOs and said, “what would you like to tell our readers?

Second, if you are serious about practicing journalism, you don’t interview some of the wealthiest people in West Michigan (who also happen to make it their business to finance political candidates to make sure policies are passed that support their ideological worldview and expand their financial interests), without asking hard, probing questions. The former editor of the GR Press, Mike Lloyd once told me that is was the duty of the Press to, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” This in not practiced at MLive.

Third, based on the commentary from the original article posted early Monday morning, the MLive reporter could have asked some important questions, about why Amway sales have increased in countries like China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, India, Russia, Malaysia and Hong Kong. More importantly, the MLive reporter could have asked those same question to people who didn’t have the wealth and power that Van Andel and DeVos hold or the reporter could have conducted their own investigation as to why Amway is experiencing these trends.

Fourth, in the video where DeVos and Van Andel talk about the new tax benefits for corporations that the Trump administration passed, any competent reporter would have asked follow up questions, sought out addition sources and even conducted their own analysis of what the recent tax policy of the Trump administration means for the US, who it benefits and who it impacts negatively.

These are not radical notions, this is simply journalism 101. Instead, once again, MLive demonstrates that they rarely practice journalism, especially when it reports on those with wealth and power, like the Amway heirs.

For more on the history of the DeVos Family, check out our 350-page document on the most powerful family in West Michigan, by going to this link

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