A quick reflection on the executive at Allstate, who according to the Wall Street Journal lost his job in part because of profanity-laced comments about a superior to colleagues in a bar.

How did the Journal get the story? Not by crawling around blogs, not by looking at the executive’s Facebook page, but by old-fashioned interviewing.


As we’ve pointed out here and here, very little of our lives sits out there on the Internet. How many of your ex colleagues, friends, romantic partners, apartments, cars and other possessions are linked to you via Google? Less than one or two percent in most cases.

To find out about people, you nearly always have to talk to others about them. That’s what the newspaper did in this case: they talked to people who the paper said had either heard the comments by the executive, Joseph Lacher, or else people familiar with the company’s internal investigation.

No Facebook, no LinkedIn, no blogging, no emails accidentally sent to the wrong person.

It’s an investigation that could have taken place just this way 20, 40, or even 80 years ago. And as we often tell clients, it’s an indispensible part of investigations today too.

Of course, a lot of what you may hear could turn out to be gossip. But being gossip doesn’t always mean something isn’t true. It can also mean that it’s factual information someone doesn’t want you to know about.