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Mar 22 2012

Matthew Chan Reflects on 10-days of Covering the “Reality Steve” Lawsuit

Similar to my last response/reaction post “Reality Steve” Link Referral Explosion, I decided to take a breather to simply reflect on what’s happened in the last week. I thank Steve Carbone for his kind words in his latest “Reality Steve” update. I appreciate the respect he has shown me considering he has not yet met or spoken with me. It’s no secret I admire and respect his genius, tenacity, accomplishments, brand, and entrepreneurial spirit.  He consistently beats Hollywood entertainment reporters at their own game by setting and making up his own rules and having a symbiotic relationship with his fans and readership.

My response is going to be slightly more subdued this time around.  I have gotten over the sudden shock of working “quietly” in my corner of the Internet (helping people defend against copyright extortion letters, real estate investing challenges, and a web presence consulting business) to suddenly being put into a spotlight covering the Hollywood extortion that I call the “Reality Steve” Extortion Lawsuit.

I know that name sounds very harsh.  It was intentional to get attention. There are probably a couple people within Hollywood such as the ABC Network and the “Bachelor” producers who might have gotten wind of my articles and don’t like me very much for using such an aggressive term and starting up this “press” coverage. After all, who gave this “nobody blogger” in Georgia the permission to write about this lawsuit? Who gave this “non-lawyer” permission to start providing legal commentary on this case? After all, aren’t only “qualified” entertainment reporters “allowed” to write about this? If so, I didn’t get THEIR memo on that.

Let me tell you, the mainstream and entertainment press was long gone before I showed up to write about this on March 11, 2012. I know because I checked.  There were a couple of rounds of superficial coverage on the “Reality Steve” lawsuit early on but it all went away quickly.  No one cared enough to even follow-up or check back on the “Reality Steve” lawsuit that I could tell. The “Reality Steve” lawsuit was old news to them. They went on to the next “bling-bling” story. From my view, the story has only just begun and the ending is far from certain or predictable with long-term ramifications for independent bloggers, hobbyist websites, and website owners.  Right now, for better or for worse, I am the only game in town that cares enough to write about all this. I will say it would be nice if someone else decided to jump in too. It feels pretty lonely out here being the lone blogger on this.

My motivations to write are certainly unusual. I have no aspirations to become a novelist but I do write about topics I am interested in and care about. I am not driven by the money although getting paid is very nice. There certainly isn’t much fame unless you get REALLY big. No one offered me so much as a cookie much less any type of spendable currency to do this. I was simply curious enough on a late Sunday night to download my own copy of the lawsuit complaint and share my thoughts on it. It didn’t matter if only 10 people read it because it represents what I believe and stand for. On the Internet, people who care about the same things you do eventually find you. That quickly became apparent last week.

We all know the story of how one of Carbone’s readers sent him an email regarding my original post sometime around March 12, 2012 and bang, one very big “Reality Steve” thank you post and link referral later, we have an online movement. I hope Carbone will look into his email archive and give that individual’s name to me who discovered and referred my article. I want to publicly acknowledge and thank him. All of us should applaud that person for taking the initiative to email Carbone.

Yesterday, I spoke with attorney Oscar Michelen and discussed where all this is going. I used the word “reporting” in my conversation with him and he jumped in and said to me, “Matthew, you have gone way beyond reporting now. You have become an advocate for Steve. You have done all this work to help Steve and even started an online petition. You are now in this thing.”

I was stunned into brief silence because Oscar was right. Although I continue to report, it certainly isn’t impartial. I do have a strong bias towards Carbone’s position. That bias is so strong that I created a movement and online petition on his behalf.

In a separate conversation with my friend and team member, Robert, I told him I didn’t even fully realize what I was doing when I publicly asked to see copies of the “Bachelor” contract from anyone who might want to anonymously submit them for our review.

Between the two articles Oscar and I wrote regarding the enforceability of the $5 million penalty clause, it suddenly felt like we were becoming advocates for the rights of TV show contestants when it really started out with a mutual legal curiosity of the “Bachelor” contract. I told Oscar about how Bob Guiney (season 3 Bachelor) won his lawsuit against the “Bachelor” producers back in 2004 when they tried to stop Guiney from promoting his music CD at that time.

Carbone has more than once said there are 500+ ex-Bachelor contestants running around from 10-years worth of “Bachelor Series” shows. I thought to myself that is a lot of contestants that could be wrongfully stuck in their contracts, and I really want to investigate this. Remember, I am NOT a lawyer nor am I an agent, so I have no interest in representing them. But I do have this insatiable curiosity of learning and reporting how things work, especially from the legal end.

I asked Oscar, “What if a Bachelor ex-contestant actually comes calling?”

He said to me, “It is permissible for any ex-contestant to seek legal counsel and legal advice.”

I remarked, “Obviously, I am not the lawyer here. I only care about learning and reporting information. But if anyone needs help, can you help them?”

He replied, “I will be happy to talk to them if they need help.”

Obviously, that made me happy especially since 10-days ago, he had never heard of “Reality Steve” or the lawsuit before and here I am roping him into helping me. Roping is actually too harsh a word. Oscar was pretty gracious about allowing me to call and consult with him on different matters as I wrote my articles.

One thing that our non-technical readers should know: if anyone does a Google search on “bachelor producers”, “bachelor lawsuit”, “reality steve lawsuit”, etc., the ELI website and my articles come up quite prominently. With every article we publish, every Facebook post we make, every Tweet we make, every Tweet that gets retweeted, every signature on the Reality Steve Lawsuit online petition, and every mention/link referral by RealitySteve.com, this fight-back/push-back publicity machine just keeps growing.

It is my hope (and presumably Carbone’s) that this push-back publicity machine grows large enough to pressure the “Bachelor” producers to drop the lawsuit unconditionally and leave Carbone and all independent bloggers and websites owners alone, once and for all. I absolutely believe, given enough time, this thing can grow very large. But a lot of this depends on you (his fans and readership) and Carbone himself.

I respect Carbone’s position of not wanting to incessantly push his lawsuit situation into his readership’s face. Certainly, there is such a thing as being overbearing and excessive about it. But at the same time, I view this as a fight for his professional life and blogger rights. He absolutely needs to come out on top with his freedoms preserved and intact. Although I do provide “press” coverage, it is from an outside perspective. Remember, I still have no inside knowledge of Carbone’s situation because we continue to maintain an arms-length relationship. This helps him respect his lawyer’s advice to keep comments to himself. In many ways, I wish I could speak with Carbone because I think it would make my job easier. But for now, we will leave it be.

I know I brainstormed Mission: RED STARS and started this little movement for Carbone, but make no mistake, all of YOU are the fuel that makes the movement happen. I am only an instigator. It doesn’t matter how much I write or comment, if you guys don’t do your part such as retweeting, spreading the word on Facebook, signing the petition, emailing the petition link to your fellow Bachelor show friends/fans, and making a Paypal contribution to Reality Steve, my efforts are a waste of time. I ask no money for myself but I do want to make a difference as quickly as I can. I don’t want my time to be spent endlessly on this project.  I think we can make some magical things happen. That is why I am still here writing on this.

Carbone has done a great job building his credibility and goodwill over the years with his fans and readership. So much so, even his haters and critics cannot stay away. They may “hate” on him and openly complain but most still come back. With Reality Steve’s 40,000+ Twitter followers and 21,000+ Facebook fans, there is no reason why “his” online petition can’t meet its goals quickly.  How cool would it be if this lawsuit were to be dropped prior to the public broadcast of Emily Maynard’s season of “The Bachelorette”? That would be something to really talk about.

And guess what? Carbone has already said RealitySteve.com gets a surge of new traffic when any new season starts. So that means even more people can become supporters of RED STARS and sign the online petition. It will become a PR nuisance for this lawsuit to be around while a new season of “The Bachelorette” is running. Of that, I have no doubt.

I do want to let you know that writing an article every night for 9 straight nights has been mentally exhausting. I know I have probably spoiled some of you with this run. I did this because it was necessary to ramp up decisively and quickly. I had to take a strong position and build up enough of a body of work that could stand by itself. One or two articles wasn’t going to cut it. To take control of the message and get the word out, I had to quickly create a body of work for incoming readers to immerse and educate themselves in. With each article that I write, there is a lesser need for another article.

Regarding Carbone with RealitySteve.com, writing his blog is his main line of business.  He can write and communicate with his fans every day.  My daily writing about all this is NOT my main line of business. It is currently a pet project with a limited time span. It is my hope that when I step away that I have done enough so that this movement has a life of its own. It doesn’t mean I will abandon the movement or the work done so far. It simply means that it won’t be a daily (or nightly) affair as it has been the last 10 days. I can step in and out to monitor things and only report as needed. In some ways, it feels like time has passed by quickly, but in other ways it feels like I have been at this a LONG TIME.

Just to be clear, I am NOT complaining and I have no regrets about the last 10 days. It’s been a wild ride with all you new readers. But I want to be straight with all of you about my current line of thinking and intent. Most of you reading this are fundamentally “Reality Steve” fans, not mine. I have no problems acknowledging that. I don’t want to outstay my welcome. I don’t think I have hit that point yet but I am mindful of it.

I remain open to new ideas, feedback, and serendipity. If there is anything I need and would ask from all of you is for more comments and feedback. I am full of ideas and thoughts but I do have limits. At some point, I will hit a wall on writing and when I do, I will likely take a long break and move on to something else. I can’t stay on a project and not contribute. It’s not my style.

The way I figure it is that things will happen the way it is supposed to be. If I am meant to stay in this longer, I will get signals and signs of that. If not, then I won’t. My current thinking is to follow through on what I started and then gradually pull back. I don’t have a set schedule on this. I will simply go by the feel of it all.

For now, I am still in the game. The next piece I need to do is a series of short videos in the next week or two.  So you can look forward to that. I will sprinkle in a few new articles of commentary and analysis also. Again, if you have ideas and feedback, send them to me. I would love to hear them.

Last thing, a few days ago I was asked and invited by a reporter to do an interview regarding my interest in the Reality Steve lawsuit. I politely declined to do the interview for a variety of reasons. I didn’t think I could say anything there that I couldn’t already do here.  The people who most care about this story are the people already visiting RealitySteve.com which I think should continue to be the main focus, not “outsiders” trying to figure out what RealitySteve.com is all about.

That reporter asked if she could check in with me a few weeks later. I said she could and I wouldn’t be offended but I don’t think my position will change so soon.

I have the luxury of taking all the time and space I need to communicate my message here. But in another setting, I feel anything I could communicate would be cut short and perhaps taken out of context.

The true story is Steve Carbone’s current legal challenge and that is where the focus should be. If anyone should be giving interviews to the press about his lawsuit and case, it is Carbone himself

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