Consumerist Gets Awards, Makes Remarks

This week Meg and I received the National Consumers League’s Consumer Education and Leadership Award for our work on Consumerist. The award was given during the Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture. The annual event commemorates the work of pioneering media activist Everett C. Parker, notable for his work in getting a racist TV station’s FCC license revoked in 1971. We’d like to share the video and the remarks we gave:

“It’s really nice that you got us two plaques. Now we don’t have to fight over who gets to keep it.

First Meghann and I would really like to thank the UCC and OC, Jim Guest, John Breyault and Sally Greenberg of the National Consumers League, and our bosses Kevin McKean, Marc Perton, without whom we would probably not be here today, and Everett Parker, in whose honor this event is held, and who graces us here with his presence.

Between this award and Consumers Union buying us this year, we now have 173 years of consumer advocacy vouching us. We are grateful and honored to accept this award.

We can’t believe that we’ve gone from running a tiny blog three years ago to standing here today, accepting an award for Consumer Education and Leadership. It’s mindblowing, really.

Particularly, because we can both honestly say that we had no idea what we were talking about when we first started at Consumerist.com. But we worked hard every day, with a mix of curiosity and skepticism and eventually started to figure it out. Mostly that came from listening to our audience. Their non-stop comments let us know when we stray and when we’re on track. Tips emailed directly from consumers spur 95% of the stories we write. Their approval and disapproval decides whether we stay relevant, online and off. Feeding their interest is what gets us up in the morning.

We see Consumerist’s role as bringing the awesome power of the internet to bear on important consumer issues of the day and expose them to the spotlight of the over 2 million people who read us each month. We seek to create awareness, by unorthodox means if necessary.

The playing field is leveling. Consumers are forcing transparency on companies simply by connecting with each other. When consumers can easily compare notes, patterns emerge, which can then be acted on. These conversations are the first steps towards real change. In our 25 new stories each day, it is our privilege to try to help facilitate these discussions.”

To this end, we’ve always found it critical to authentically engage with our readers, our constituency. They are quite literally, that which constitute us, the parts that form the whole. So then, without them, we are nothing.

The nation faces a critical moment. Consumers are strapped and seeking solutions. Desperate times invent desperate measures. In this environment, scams can take out super bowl ads and hide behind the skirt of their fine print, simply because they have the cash to burn.

We deserve better. But only if we act. If we do nothing, we deserve exactly what we get.

It is necessary, then, for all of us to set aside hubris. For however much we at Consumerist.com have educated and lead consumers, they have taught and lead us three times over. As journalists, business people, and advocates, we must both possesses the vision to harness, and the humility to be harnessed by, the consumers, if we are to win the fight for a fair, just, and safe marketplace, together. Thanks again to the National Consumers League for this honor.”

(Photo: Marc Perton)