Forbes magazine is used to embarrassing chief executives, but now it has a red face. The New York Daily News reported on Sunday that a Forbes columnist of seven years, Srully Blotnick, has been using bogus credentials, and possibly faked research. Mr. Blotnick, the author of five books, is widely quoted and appears frequently on television talk shows as an expert on corporate culture and male-female relationships.
The Daily News story noted that it too had used Blotnick as an expert in the past. Arthur Browne, city editor of the Daily News, said the newspaper felt it had a responsibility to run the story because ``it was in the public interest.''
Forbes, in a one-sentence reaction to the Daily News story, says the column, called ``Insights,'' will no longer appear. Forbes editor James Michaels did not return phone calls.
The Daily News story, written by Dan Collins, detailed how Mr. Blotnick had fooled Forbes and the publishing houses of Viking-Penguin and Facts on File. Reviewers wrote raves about his books, including ``The Corporate Steeplechase,'' which sold more than 50,000 hardcover copies.
The News story, however, showed that it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Blotnick to do the research he claimed. Blotnick had maintained he had been studying thousands of families since 1958, when he was a student in college. Such studies take huge amounts of time and money. The story raises questions whether Blotnick, who had claimed a PhD from an unaccredited correspondence school, had the time or funds to undertake such research.
The News story also raises questions about Forbes. In January, the magazine removed the PhD from Blotnick's title. But the magazine still referred to him as a ``business psychologist.'' In New York State, it is illegal to call yourself a ``psychologist'' without the proper licensing. Forbes had no comment on this.
The story raises broader questions about publishing. Two well-known book companies went to press without questioning the research that made up the books.
``You would assume,'' says Mr. Browne of the Daily News, ``reputable publishing houses took the time to check his claims.''
Viking Penguin says it assumed that Facts On File, Blotnick's first publisher, had checked out the research involved in his book. John Thornton, associate publisher at Facts On File, says, ``We are as dismayed as Viking Penguin over the apparent discrepancies over the way it is written and researched.''
Mr. Thornton says commercial publishers rarely examine books in the same critical manner as university presses. The procedure is unlikely to change, he adds. ``Ninety-nine percent of what we do is based on faith,'' he says.
Facts On File is uncertain what to do next. It has been unable to get Blotnick or his agent, Edward J. Acton Agency, to return its phone calls.