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The Media

The Failure of Tech Journalism 426

Belzebutt writes: "This is a great article that talks about something we already knew, but haven't paid that much attention to: most tech journalists are a bunch of corporate whores. It even mentions Slashdot, although not very favorably." Eh, we'll get over it. It's a good rant, something to consider as news sites fold left and right.
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The Failure of Tech Journalism

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  • by SlashGeek ( 192010 ) <petebibbyjr&gmail,com> on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @08:38PM (#2233005)
    Shouldn't it read

    "This is a great article that talks about something we already knew, but haven't paid that much attention to: Slashdot journalists are a bunch of corporate whores."

  • s/Tech Journalism/Business Journalism/g
  • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @08:40PM (#2233022) Homepage

    that talks about something we already knew, but haven't paid that much attention to: most tech journalists are a bunch of corporate whores.

    Of course. Well, tech journalists are usually going to write for tech periodicals, which sell advertising to tech firms. Predictably, that makes them about as impartial as Car and Driver magazine.

    So, the bigger point is this: which do I, as an informed and newsreading consumer, trust? Slashdot, which is an arm of VA Linux, or MSNBC?


    It even mentions Slashdot, although not very favorably

    He does hit home on an irritating issue. Much of the moderation here appears to be done based on whether or not the moderator personally agrees with you, regardless of how intelligent or relevent your comments may be. This is a subtle evolution of the "luser who uses Windoze" quote from the NetSlaves author. It's rare that Microsoft does something right, of course, but when it does, it's nice to be able to discuss it rationally. Meta-Moderation should address that, but as long as human beings are involved, impartiality will be unattainable.

    • Interesting comments, especially in light of your .sig.

      Where are the mod points when I need them?

      • Interesting comments, especially in light of your .sig.
        Where are the mod points when I need them?

        I have yet to claim impartiality. Ever.

        However, I do consider myself to be a cut above (pun intended - ha ha) the kind of thoughtless Windows-bashing that I frequently see. Sure, it should be illegal to use Windows on any machine with a routable IP. ISPs should collectively ban it the way most of them have banned running servers of any sort.

        But you'll not find me posting my anti-Windows diatribe in as ill-formed a manner as they stereotype.

    • So, the bigger point is this: which do I, as an informed and newsreading consumer, trust? Slashdot, which is an arm of VA Linux, or MSNBC?

      MSNBC have proven themselves to be pretty damn impartial. Slashdot cannot claim that. At all.

      • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @09:11PM (#2233124) Homepage

        MSNBC have proven themselves to be pretty damn impartial. Slashdot cannot claim that. At all.

        Yeah. They're pretty impressive in that regard.

        Similarly, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is funded by the Canadian federal government. And, similarly, they've managed an impressive record of impartiality to our government's ineptitude.

        However, I'm sure that a single telephone call from Jeen Poutine could slash the CBC's funding, and that must weigh on the back of the mind of the editors and reporters there. Certainly, when I freelanced for the CBC, it was strictly verboten for CBC employees to have lawn signs supporting election candidates at any level.

        Uncle Bill must wield similar authority over MSNBC. While MSNBC certainly covers Microsoft flaws, it seems to be a little toned down compared to ABC or CBS for example. And CNN, with its AOL ownership, seems to be harder on Microsoft.

        Maybe it's subliminal to the staff, but it's there. Compare the coverage very carefully next week when a new Microsoft vulnerability imperils the Internet.

        Now, why doesn't it matter that Slashdot is *not* impartial? Because that's the format. That's what's expected. You trust the comments only slightly more than Usenet postings. After all, Slashdot actively solicits opinions from its readership, and those make up the bulk of the news coverage.

      • MSNBC have proven themselves to be pretty damn impartial.

        A couple years ago /. was arguing over whether MSNBC was being used for nefarious purposes by Microsoft, and I went to their site and searched for "General Electric" and "GE" and got zero hits. Considering they're one of the worlds largest corporations and own 50% of MSNBC, that seemed a little strange.

        Currently, tons of hits come up, including an article about whether the GE chairman influenced NBC's election coverage.
    • For you, as a consumer, this should make no difference whatsoever. True, you can't have "great things about Windows" as a topic on Slashdot without being flamed to a crisp, but what's stopping you to go discuss it in a Windows forum? That crowd should be pretty receptive to such a discussion, and you get the best of both worlds.
      <sarcasm> Well, in practice this may not work since all Windows users are pathetic losers who can't even spell "intelligent", let alone have an intelligent conversation about something, but hey, it sounds good in theory. </sarcasm>

      ::/me ducks under the deluge of "-1, Flamebait"'s::
      • Well, because this is "Slashdot: News for Nerds. Stuff that matters" not "Slashdot: If it's not about linux, Fuck off"? I mean if it IS the second (and it is), then it should probably be said that way. :)
        • What's wrong with their motto? I thought all nerds hate Windows. :) No really, of course they're as Linux-biased as they get, as they readily admit it themselved. Nothing wrong with that. Slashdot is not the New York Times and it will never be. It's not even a newspaper, even though they have Jon Katz on staff (or maybe *because* they have Jon Katz on staff?) - it's just a weblog. AFAIK no one from the Slashdot editorial team ever claimed to be objective, or even that what they're doing is journalism. So where's the problem? It's a weblog, it's free, if you don't like it, just move on. There are tens of thousands of weblogs on the web to choose from.

          Read at -1. Find out what THEY don't want you to know!

          Oh *please*. Slashdot at -1 is like a cross between a kindergarten, a federal prison and a mental institution. No thanks.
          • I find it just the opposite. Browsing at 1 - 2 shows the most inteligent posts.

            If they're at 5 they have been here too long and are simply karma whores

            If they're at 4 they're praising linux in some fashion

            If they're at 3 they got lucky

            If they're at 2 then they just are well heard

            If they're at 1, then it s a unique opinion that isn't heralded because of who or what they are but simply unique for what they actually said.

            -1 is just some funny sh1t. +5 is just bliss ignorance
            • If they're at 5 they have been here too long and are simply karma whores

              Funny you should say that. Given that you post at +2 and have a relatively low UID, I would have thought you knew better. Allow me to demonstrate: if you've been here for too long, your karma whoring days are long gone. Partly because it gets old, but mostly because even if you did care about karma at some point, if you're not a complete loser you're most probably at the cap by now. So why would you seek karma points then? You can't whore for something you can't get any more of.

              -1 is just some funny sh1t. +5 is just bliss ignorance
              You may be occasionally right about the later part, but I'll take a "+5, Funny" over a "-1, Troll" anyday. A "+5, Funny" is always funny, but a "-1, Troll" is in most cases just another lame link. As for the -1's being funny... well, I'm not that easily amused.
          • Oh *please*. Slashdot at -1 is like a cross between a kindergarten, a federal prison and a mental institution. No thanks.

            Yeah, but isn't that what makes it so much fun?

      • "True, you can't have "great things about Windows" as a topic on Slashdot without being flamed to a crisp"

        I must respectfully disagree on this point. During the whole SmartTag issue, I mistakenly held the belief that SmartTags would be a happy, fun solution that would allow me right-click access to instantly google or dictionary-lookup a given word or phrase.

        The responses were generally coherent, well-thought out replies that ranged from pointing me to an existing IE plugin that already did what I wanted to detailing the problem of a web designer trying to explain to technologically unsavvy customers how it's not the web designer's fault that the page has extra links.

        In short, there are a lot of Slashdot posters out there who're wiser than you're giving them credit for. Admittedly, even time I come to fully believe that, I run into half a dozen idiots, but overall, I think a decent amount of worthwhile conversation takes place.

    • Much of the moderation here appears to be done based on whether or not the moderator personally agrees with you, regardless of how intelligent or relevent your comments may be. This is a subtle evolution of the "luser who uses Windoze" quote from the NetSlaves author. It's rare that Microsoft does something right, of course, but when it does, it's nice to be able to discuss it rationally.

      There is a lot of ideological moderation here, but if you stay reasonable, choose your battles carefully, and back up your points with solid facts, you can get modded up on /. without adhering to the dominant pro-Linux, pro-open-source, anti-user-experience ideology. I've done it, as an old Mac hand who thinks the open source model is fundamentally flawed, and who frequently points out problems with command line interfaces and UNIX. It took a lot of work, and I've had to be a lot more careful in expressing myself than would someone whose views were more in line with local consensus, but it's been effective.

      Granted, I also get flamed out the wazoo by hordes of ESR drones, but that's only to be expected when you're taking an antinomian stance. I also sometimes get unfairly modded down, usually by the kinds of people who like to throw "overrated" around to avoid metamod, but that happens less often than you'd think.

      So I can't testify from personal experience that all divergent views get modded down here. In any human group critics need to be extra careful, but in many groups, someone taking an oppositional stance like mine would be excluded altogether, rather than being at the karma cap.

      • "modded up on /. without adhering to the dominant pro-Linux, pro-open-source, anti-user-experience ideology. "

        Oh man this is so much crap. Go back read some threads. The fact is that the best way to get modded up to praise MS. Sure at one time this was a pro-open source, pro linux board but not anymore. Now it's trolled by MS astro turfers who moderate each other up.

        Here is the best way to get modded up on slashdot.

        1) Say something like "sure I like linux but let's face it windows is more suitable for everybody"
        2) say something republican
        3) say something liberterian
        4) say something funny
        5) say something about how "slashdot is full of karma whores who moderate down pro MS posts"

        If you don't believe me go try it yourself.

        BTW speaking the truth will always get you modded down.
    • Much of the moderation here appears to be done based on whether or not the moderator personally agrees with you, regardless of how intelligent or relevent your comments may be.

      I don't know how true this really is. I usually browse at +2, and slashdot is reasonably nice to read. And I see a moderate (heh) amount of slashdot/editor/moderator/linux bashing. Since unpopular opinions *do* get through the moderation process, I figured all was right in the world. But recently, I decided to see for myself how "censored" slashdot comments really are. I spend a week browsing at -1, flat.

      It was nightmare.
      Barely intelligible racial and sexual slurs. ASCII art (what is this? An 1980s bbs?) Offtopic rants about censorship that were modded <gasp> offtopic! Porn, violence, profanity, ad nauseum. One could list for days the horrors that go on (and on) in AC land. I won't bore anyone with the details. (But don't take my word for it, it's there for anyone with the courage to see.)

      Sure, there was the occasion funny or insightful post that was labeled incorrectly by humourless or thick-headed moderators, but they were few. Nothing seemed to have been unjustly downgraded.

      So thank you, unsung slashdot moderators. As much as the editors, story submitters, and insightful comment makers, *you* make slashdot a place worth visiting. Without your tireless efforts, I would have given up on this site full of teenage potty-mouths months ago. Keep up the good work!

      Now I am returning to the relative safety of +2, threaded. :)
      • I metamoderate regularly, and I tend to agree with at least 7 out of 10 moderations. One or two are typically too hard to tell without context whether the moderation is appropriate or not ("Redundant" is impossible without context), and maybe one of the ten is definitely unfair.

        The one area where moderation falls down is sometimes coherent, well-written posts that are nevertheless uninformed, ignorant spouting of garbage get modded up inappropriately. Other than that, I think the system works reasonably well.

        • I don't metamoderate (and rarely moderate, period) much anymore, but I think the area where moderation fails the most is the "overrated" category. There really isn't any point to it. Who cares if someone gets a "5" even though you think it shouldn't get any higher than a "4"? If you think it's flamebait or a troll, fine, but who's to say whether something's worth a 3 or a 5? Most of the time "overrated" is just used to squelch personal/opinion disagreements in a way so that the moderator doesn't really have to worry about metamoderation. At the least, for all posts moderated "overrated," metamoderation should at least show the score that the post had when it was moderated that way. Personally, I think that "overrated" should just go away, but barring that, all "overrated" modrations should be metamoderated as "unfair." You want to tag something as trolling or flamebait, fine, but as of now, "overrated" is just being used by the spineless as a way of saying, "Oooo, I don't want to hear an opinion like that!"

    • Well, tech journalists are usually going to write for tech periodicals, which sell advertising to tech firms.

      And news journalists write in magazines/newspapers that sell advertisting as well. What's your point? It's a well known ethical standard that news divisions and sales divisions should be separate. Some tech magazines are better than other tech magazines, just like news magazines.

      Predictably, that makes them about as impartial as Car and Driver magazine.

      What's your beef with C&D? I've never seen any hint of bias from them, and I'm a regular reader.

    • Advertisers want one thing out of the publications they advertise more than anything else, do you know what that is?

      Favorable coverage comes a distant second.

      The fact that bigger companies can steer coverage is a windfall for them, not a requirement for the publication. Publishers have kowtowed to advertisers, it happens, it's common. And it makes advertiser's happy, until that publication tanks.

      If you want -good- biased coverage, you go to a publication that just has biased and shameless editors, like the LA Times in the 60's (it was a media spigot for the GOP). Because they're still interested in their readers, and producing something that has value to the readers.

      You want -bad- biased coverage you go to somebody who is looking to score bonus points with some advertiser, because they're going about things backwards in the first place.

      Let me repeat, with some refinements I thought up as I was writing here...
      -Smart- advertisers want their ads to be seen, and choose publications that put their adverts onto the eyes/ears of their target demographic.

      It is a pure bonus to the Marketing department of those companies if they can control editorial content with the threat (made or implicit) of taking advertising dollars to other publications.

      As a side note, somebody else already mentioned this, but Car & Driver has always seemed to me to be a fairly upright publication. Partly because they have a large readership and a very broad base of potential advertisers (how many different companies that manufacture spark-plugs want advert space in C&D?).
    • I was just curious to know more about your example of "Car and Driver" magazine not being impartial. I've read C/D for quite a while, and have found that this magazine contains the most fair and unbiased, uninfluenced views in automotive journalism. I don't even know of any publication that I've felt comes close to their level or journalistic integrity. They tend to apologize for false statements in the magazine when written to, and even print extremely criticizing letters from readers in every issue.

      As an example, there was a small-car comparo a few months back where they slammed Toyota, one of their largest advertisers, calling their new Echo: "Something entirely new from Toyota: a big mistake."
      I just don't see why you would have used C/D as your example, why not Motor Trend, who can't say anything bad about any car, and is roughly equivalent to PC Magazine in this regard.

      This is honestly just curiousity, I don't mean to flame, and my apologies to the parents of idiot moderators who will denounce this as offtopic, even though the SUBJECT already says so.
  • So this is only a problem with online reviews? come on.. When you've got Sony hiring movie reviewers for print? Or have you seen the state of Automobile reviews? [] The problems are the same.

    And hell, why not? If I was trying to sell a product I'd buy me a few reviewers.. By the way, if the Honda Corp is listening- Send me some cash and I'll change that to a positive review..

  • If you were independant, i'd keep my mouth shut. Fact(s) of the matter are:

    A linux company OWNS you.

    You don't post squat about anything BUT linuxInternet Explorer 6.0 is released - no news

    Mozilla . build 29343 gets released and its front page!

    If thinkgeek sells it, you think its cool

    If amazon sells it, its corporate america after you!

    I could go on and on...

    Ofcourse you aren't biased, you're just ignorant :)

    • you forgot:

      I also did attempt a post of the IE 6 release, got rejected :(
  • by bentini ( 161979 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @08:49PM (#2233055)
    The bash on Slashdot in the article, that responses are flames and Linux-centric is unfairly leveled. Yes, people are flamed if they don't like tha tLinux isn't easy to use. In fact, /. isn't agnostic. It's a bunch of bigoted assholes who want everyone to use Linux. Or at least, you can hear that. It's very intimidating to newbies.

    BUT, that's what Slashdot, THE COMMUNITY, has decided to be. Those AREN'T journalists. It's not CmdrTaco who's coming down and flaming people. There even exists many legitimate criticisms of Slashdot and Slashdot's journalism. But this guy, in confusing the whole issue, just comes off as stupid.

    If you're going to say Slashdot is harsh, say it in an article about the environment of weblog.

    If you're going to say journalism is bad, get on them for the all the times they've been had by hoaxes and post press releases for companies submitted by people with the same username as the company.

    But if you're going to criticize /., at least do it fairly and in the right forum. Otherwise, you come off seeming like an idiot who doesn't understand what, exactly, he's writing about or what his subject is.

    • CmdrTaco is "harboring" the biased opinions by

      A) Being a hidden auditor of everything slashdot
      B) Not doing anything change the problem.

      The problem is, people think that this is a weblog and fairly moderated.

      1. Most mod points go to jokes - har har funny funny, we have heard it before.

      2. Other mod points go to karma hunters posting links or mirroring articles.

      3. Good articles with REAL opinions are moderated up and then flamebaited and then modded up and flaim bated again.

      I think if slashdot wants to be unbiased then an article starts out at 1, can only get modded Down ONCE, modded up 4 times and therefore if SOMEONE likes your idea its modded up, and if someone doesn't like it it is only modded down, but it would take more people understanding the topic to mod up then more people trying to screw things up modding it down.

      Slashdot is far from the fair weblog you conceive.

  • I was photo editor at my college paper (dailly collegian!) So I hung out with many journalists. They make very little money so how can you expect someone who is knowledgable about computers to choose a career in journalism as opposed to a lucrative computer job.

    Thats why slashdot /usenet is a usefull place to get computer information from people actually working and the web is so bad about reporting facts properly.
    • I'd like to think that a good journalist isn't limited to a small number of fields he/she is already trained in.. Their job is, after all, to digest and summarize large amounts of seemingly arcane or trivial content and render it comprehensible to their readership. If one has to be fully inside the technical community, the entering of which often takes several years of determined geekitude, in order to write a report, then something is horribly wrong.

      Actually, I think I'll agree with my unstated question -- investigative journalism is dead, dead, dead. Geeks report on things out of their biases and previous training. Professional journalists plagarize from news releases and marketing copy. No one is actually going out and asking some engineer "what the fsck does this mean?"

      I think the wisdom in the article can be distilled down to one of the closing lines:

      All these people wanted to be something other than reporters and for awhile, they got away with it. Because they wanted to be something they weren't while refusing to recognize that greatness lies in doing their jobs. Journalism is a noble profession when done right. And people get killed doing it every year.
  • This is NOT limited to the tech industry.

    for example, take a look at Media Whores Online []

    As they describe themselves: "The site that set out to bring the media to their knees - but found they were already there"

    They stomp on everyone's toes.

    good stuff


    - - -
    Radio Free Nation []
    "If You have a Story, We have a Soap Box"

  • by Xoro ( 201854 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @09:02PM (#2233090)

    Funny, I've never thought of Slashdot as "journalism". Who are the reporters? Where are the stories they write? Where is the pretense of objectivity?

    Every ed will say straight out they have a pro-linux bias, there's no attempt to disguise it. The anti-MS atmosphere isn't "Slashdot's dirty secret" as mod-losers like to claim, it's just part of the deal. Slashdot is a conversation, not a newspaper. I don't see why people criticize it for not being something it has never pretended to be.

  • Look At The Source (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PRickard ( 16563 ) <pr@ms-b[ ]om ['c.c' in gap]> on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @09:03PM (#2233092) Homepage

    I dare say that most Internet new sites (mainstream ones anyway, ZD/CNet, InfoWorld, etc.) look like corporate whores because they get their news from wire services that are corporate whores. Reuters, Bloomberg, Associated Press, and Dow Jones Newswire. Now those are a bunch of independent thinking and incorruptable companies, eh?

    I also dare say that most of the bankrupt news sites wouldn't be in so much trouble if they actually wrote their own news instead of using the same wire stories all their competitors use. Go to Yahoo News, Netscape News, MSN, ZDNet, and PCWeek. Reuters feeds on every one of them, often the same stories. And some sites just use the same reports with a few words changed around so they don't have to credit the original source (or pay for the story - or admit they don't have any competent writers on staff.)

    Creative, independent, and different-thinking companies don't always survive - but at least people will care if they don't. I couldn't care less if some Reuters rehash "news" site goes under because I probably don't go to that site anyway. But on the other hand I would probably get teary if The Register, Aint It Cool, Tom's Hardware, Mac OS Rumors, BetaNews, or (what remains of it) went away because they at least have the guts to be different.

  • WAY too simple.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by darkPHi3er ( 215047 )
    The number one reason technology is so badly covered starts with the technologists.

    1. We have a tendency to assume that all tech media people are stupid or biased, so we give them "shorthand" and "for dummies" explanations that we wouldn't give to anyone we respected.

    2. We allows the marketing droids and PR flacks to develop relationships with journalists, when we should be the ones extending ourselves to the industry media.

    3. We don't like to contradict our managment when our management say "XYZ" and we know its pure bullshit. So we end supporting OUR corporation's position when we know its not true.

    YES, there are plenty of hacks in tech media. But, as i have had a chance to meet and speak with some of the best regarded tech journalists. In my experiences with them, having been sourced a number of times and having contributed to a couple of biggish "scoops", there are also plenty who want to get the story right. But, if the only interface they have is the marketing dept or some project manager with his stock options on the line, they ain't ever gonna hear a discouraging word.

    You can't accuse journalists like Dan Gillmor, Mary Jo Foley, Scott Petersen, Walter Mossberg, Peter Coffee, Dan Coursey, Michael Vizard, Jesse Berst, et al of excessive slanting. All of these journalists and the "analysts" like Dvorak have spent many years poking holes in tech corporations "walls of silence"...

    Organizations are another thing.

    It seems very clear to me, IMHO, that before the purchase of ZDNet by CNET, ZDNet was pretty tough on MS, and this was despite the fact that MS was a HUGE ADVERTISER on ZDNet!

    CNET, on the other hand, has always seemed to me to be "softer" on its MS coverage than just about any other tech news hub.

    Interestingly, since CNET's acquisition of ZDNet, it seems as though some major ZDNet anti-MS reporters such as Mary Jo Foley have gone away, and the overall tone of ZDNet on the subject of MS has softened considerably.

    CNET also does not, and never has, seemed as Linux friendly as ZDNet, and I don't get the feeling that CNET wants to do anything to piss MS off.

    I'd say it's "Caveat Emptor", i look at the byline. If i know/respect the journalist, i'll read it.

    If it's some bozo who can't a monitor from "The Monitor", i'll skip it.

    But, if we want more accurate coverage...We are going to have to start by avoiding trolling and flaming journalists who get it wrong, and start developing relationships with the ones who we know cover us fairly and accurately.

    And we are going to have to go around our employers sometimes to do that, takes guts and involvement.

    without those efforts on our part, you can expect that tech media coverage will remain driven by "Advertiser is King" coverage, until we change it.
    • Great Post!

      You know on the freenet [] they have this say, "For press inquiries, please contact Ian Clarke"

      Wow they make it easy to for the press to get info

      Microsoft is probably a phone call away for a lot of these reporters.

      Where would the press go to ask about Linux?

  • Shitty article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikethegeek ( 257172 ) <blair@NOwcmifm.c ... M minus language> on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @09:11PM (#2233126) Homepage
    Bashes ./ as biased (well, DUH! we are here because of Linux), but you can hear the crickets chirp as to their mention of Ziff-Davis sites.

    ZD is by FAR the most biased, most useless source of tech information. I dumped my subscription to Computer Gaming World after 12 years when they bought it.

    In a ZD article, you "coincidently" see and ad for a product around a positive review of it.
    • ZD has wrung a lot out of saying things just to be inflammatory to the ./ crowd to drive traffic... Obviously they'd like to be the tech journo's FoxNews... While MSNBC publishes the most withering (and accurate) articles about Microsoft I've seen anywhere... The Daily Show has been a fantastic source of parody for this stuff recently.

      But overall, this was a great article, and I liked realitycheck's comment that ./ is a forum, not journalism, while the guilty parties actually pretend to be journalists, which doesn't make them stupid, although it does make them whores.

      Then again, I like vehement opinions delivered accurately and with both eloquence and profanity.

    • I must say Ziff-Davis is doing something right.

      If you read /. the people here complain because it's biased against Linux.

      If you read the Microsoft biased websites, however, the people there complain because Ziff-Davis is biased against Windows and has too much pro-Linux coverage.

      One thing I notice in most magazines, they generally always print glowing reviews. I think this is because of limited space, mostly. They ignore the bad products and focus on good ones because that's what people want to hear about.

  • ...Or hear in the news. My wife works at a PR firm, and she has WRITTEN the core of entire goddam stories that end up under a reporters name. Quotes are also routinely made up by PR's sickening. I still love her though, even though she's doing the devils work :)

    I mean, look what happens when a Howard Stern fan calls in during the OJ have this guy sounding as hickish as he possibly can, and making comments that don't make any sense, and Peter Jennings eats it up. 99% of the people on television are toast without a teleprompter.

    For that matter, here's another pet come the media always asks actors what their political views are. Why do the opinions of a guy who never has a thought in his mind, a guy who's job is to do and act and feel and say what someone else tells him to, why do they ask him?

    All media is propaganda.

  • by arfy ( 236686 )
    The article implies that until recently, journalists were ethical. How about George Will, who loves to pontificate about ethics on ABC's "This Week" program? Remember how badly he wanted Ronald Reagan to do well in a pre-election presidential debate? He coached Mr. Reagan secretly beforehand even though Mr. Will was going to serve as one of the debate's questioners! And this guy is still allowed to practice journalism and editorialize (about ethics, among other things).

    Whoring journalists are nothing new. Being online just gives them better opportunities to pimp themselves.
  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Accipiter ( 8228 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @09:16PM (#2233142)
    Eh, we'll get over it.

    That's the most disinterested, apathetic attitude I've seen in a long time. Get over it? Is that how you respond to valid criticisms?

    Three years ago, Slashdot was "The Place" to go for computer news. Slashdot broke stories way before any other sites covered them. The message boards were lit up with intelligent conversation and discussion.

    Today? Some articles are duplicated twice, even three times. Slashdot lags behind other news sites in stories, the postings are heavy on opinion instead of fact, and the site has a tremendous bias. Stories are submitted days, sometimes weeks in advance, and are rejected only to be posted much later by someone else's submission. Articles are posted without so much as a second thought to grammar and spelling.

    What did you expect? Congratulations?

    Obviously, a lot less care is being taken to make Slashdot the place it used to be.

    And you'll over it? Instead of sulking in the corner and trying to "get over it", why not attempt to CHANGE the negative aspects that make people say "You suck!" Start listening to the valid complaints and criticisms people send you, and take action. Consider suggestions. Be a little proactive. Sure, code updates are good, but people DO care a lot about CONTENT as well.
    • Re:Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

      by J4 ( 449 )
      Three years ago, Slashdot was "The Place" to go for computer news. Slashdot broke stories way before any other sites covered them. The message boards were lit up with intelligent conversation and discussion.

      Huh? Slashdot has been recycled links from day one. Sure, it was better 3 years ago, but that was when Taco&Co where still making their bones.
      You should know that, you remember BoredAtWork.
      Still, explain to me how you can break a story when all you have is a link to *somebody elses* coverage of it?
    • Today? Some articles are duplicated twice, even three times. Slashdot lags behind other news sites in stories, the postings are heavy on opinion instead of fact, and the site has a tremendous bias. Stories are submitted days, sometimes weeks in advance, and are rejected only to be posted much later by someone else's submission. Articles are posted without so much as a second thought to grammar and spelling.

      Five words: Nevertheless, you are here. Of all the literally *thousands* of news sites available on the web, all the discussion boards, chat rooms, news tickers, etc., you're *here* spending time writing about how much you dislike it.

      That's like self-proclaimed anti-Americans who burn flags in protest, but then run back to their nice suburban homes to catch "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

      Or like Slashdot readers who hate Katz, but won't ever filter his stories.

      Yeah, it sucks here. But it's better than the alternative. I'm all for trying to improve what we've got, but don't preach about how everything else is better unless you can put your money where your mouth is and actually read those sites instead of Slashdot.

    • Hmm, I've been reading Slashdot for 3-4 years and I don't remember a time when it was anything other than CmdrTaco's personal plaything. You're right about one thing, stories don't often break here anymore, at least not before I am aware of them through other channels. That might just be different reading habits on my part, though.

      • I pretty much read the same group of websites I have for the past 3 years. Slashdot,,, Occasionally I bop on over to,

        Now /. has always reposted stuff, some of it interesting. I don't mind that.

        But the past year they are signifigantly behind the other news sites I monitor. An important development in the Microsoft case will appear on I subscribed to the courts email list so I know about it before it's posted there, although usually not what the legal gibberish actually means), and it won't show up on slashdot until the next day.
    • by MadAhab ( 40080 )
      Sure, you gotta lower #, but I've been reading ./ for three years (ok, 2.5), and it's always been something like it is now... full of advocates and trolls, but with useful information and intelligent discussion when you come across it.

      Frankly, I'm surprised that you harsh on ./ editorial staff while ignoring the frequent technical disruptions that plague it. To me, they are both like watching a certain bartender at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge cough in his hand and then use the same hand to haul ice out of a tub into a glass that will shortly hold a drink. It's distasteful and horrible to look at, but if you are a regular, you can sense the goatse and you stick to the bottled beverages.

    • by rho ( 6063 )
      Slashdot broke stories way before any other sites covered them.

      Huh? Slashdot is a glorified posting of somebody's (Taco's) bookmarks. Almost everything originates from some other site (most often mainstream sites).

      Slashdot doesn't "break" stories -- they are a place that gathers interesting stories (breaking, or otherwise) in one place. They produce maybe 5-10% original content -- the rest is user contributed or completely external.

      • Re:Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

        by juuri ( 7678 )
        You know I am sick of this belief that slashdot is "Taco's Bookmarks". Yes this may have been the case years ago but once Slashdot grew into a commerical entity it lost the right to be judged so lightly.

        Slashdot grew into something more than was intended. Once of the assets of slashdot listed in the "value" of owning it was the loyal readership. A loyal readership which views lots of ADs and contributes all of the content to make the site work. But what do we get in return?
        Complaints ever answered? No.
        Stable environment? No.
        Fact checking? No.
        Any level of real effort put forth? Nope.

        So who is the sucker here? Those of us that continue to come back despite these problems? Or those that think this is the best we can get? Just once I would like to see one of the editors (besides Hemos) actually comment and contribute back to the discussions. And hey how about apologizing for only putting forth 15 minutes of effort a day into a site which pays them pretty well?
        • by rho ( 6063 )

          Well, the intent has always been "what Rob thinks is interesting". In a real sense, it's similar to talk radio -- the host talks about what he thinks is interesting, and the callers comment: discussions ensue therewith.

          I agree that I wish they editors took their job a bit more seriously and made the attempt to clean up the errors, spelling/grammar and otherwise, but they are at least honest about what they do. Taco doesn't put on airs like a "journalist", but rather just a lucky-ass nerd who's site managed to become something of a cult-icon, and who managed to drag along a few friends. Good work if you can get it.

          But I think they put forth more effort than 15 minutes a day.

  • The same can be said of scientific journalism. Most science journalists are science whores. If they were doing their jobs, they would uncover that a lot of what passes itself as science, especially in the physics community, is really a bunch of chicken feather voodoo. A few things that come to mind are time travel, wormholes, multiple parallel universes, quantum computing (yes, a big fucking hoax that one is), time warps, dimensions that have sizes, dimensions that can be curled up into little tiny little balls, etc., etc...

    It's truly fucking pathetic. Worst of all, most of the proponents of all this Star-Trek hocus pocus are big-time famous physicists like Stephen Hawking, Kip Thorne, David Deutsch, and the like, hiding behind a wall of obfuscations and thinking they are forever beyond public scrutiny. And all of it is supported by the public's money. Science journalists are ready to prostitute themselves to interview those charlatans. And they do.

    So don't lay all the blame for what's wrong with journalism on tech journalists. It's all over the place. It's called bias and self-interest. As Feyarabend wrote, "it is up to us, it is up to the citizens of a free society to either accept the chauvinism of science without contradiction or to overcome it by the counterforce of public action."

    Freedom of information = open source = open science. We, the public, don't need a condescending priesthood to look down on us while spending our money.

    This is my rant. I've said what I had to say. You can mod me down now.
  • As outlined in articles such as this one from the horse's mouth [] VA Linux has undergone a change in corporate strategy. The company is now betting the farm on selling SourceForge software to corporations.

    It seems to me that while OSDN brings in revenue, there is an unexplored opportunity for another branch to fill exactly the niche that the article is discussing. VA Linux is no longer in the hardware business. That makes them a completely neutral player relative to that business. And they have all that knowledgable talent.

    I might be wrong but I doubt that people who were originally drawn to Linux were interested in corporate hype. Isn't this supposed to be a distinguished feature of the movement? And coming off of the 10 year anniversary, Linux doesn't need the evangelism anymore. Heck, the corporations such as IBM and HP will do all the evangelism required.

    There is a natural niche for older knowledgable players in any industry, and that's to be lovable curmudgeons. They've already made their mark. They have good reputations. In other words, they're naturals for the type of journalists the article calls for.

    Furthermore in order for VA Linux to succeed in their SourceForge endeavor, they have to find a way to reach people outside of the current Slashdot box. Slashdot doesn't complement VA Linux at all when it comes to the image the company needs to sell to people outside the community. As Eric Raymond [] wrote, the company's survival depends on selling products to people different from Slashdot's audience.

    Linux will survive but VA Linux won't unless they do something drastically different from what their competitors offer. VA Linux is selling a product that in essence says that things are broken in current industry. But pure Linux advocacy is incapable of reaching the people that VA Linux needs to reach to make the sale. The message needs to be communicated in a different way, and the article shows a way to try this.

  • Hmm... Are you calling Robert X. Cringely, who uses the PBS web site paid for by my tax dollars to promote a Canadian company for which he sits on the board of directors and is paid to promote the company is a "corporate whore"??? Say it isn't so!
    • If you aren't confusing one Cringely with another, to which Canadian company do you refer, and where might one view the terms of Cringely's contract with them?
  • I'm a journalist working for IDGNet in New Zealand. We IT writers do come in for a lot of crap because of our seemingly loose ethical standards. We accept vendor-paid trips to conferences and events, lunches to "discuss" important issues (like desert), toys to "review" often on long-term basis and so on. Business reporters have a duty to report the truth in an unbiased manner and they often list their investments/involvements with the companies they write about. It IT we tend to miss out that step and not reveal our prejudices and that's wrong. But at the same time I know a lot of reporters who are very principled - more so than some of the plonkers we interview and write about. We dig the dirt out as and where we can - I remember being told it's a journalist's duty to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Don't know if it's true but we are required to be skeptical about as much as we possibly can, to view it from that other angle to see if what we're being told (and sold) stacks up... It's not as simple as reading the press release and calling the people listed and asking them to repeat what they've already said - leave that to TV thanks... online journalism has a long way to go before people will trust it implicitly but then so does newspaper, radio and TV journalism. I think we virtual reporters have the best job in the world - I get paid to play with things and keep up to date on something I care about.. it's fantastic. But there are dangers out there and this rant does point them out quite nicely.
    Be skeptical - it's all that stands between us and the PR crap.
  • I've always had great respect for a few tech journals - Sun Expert (now S/W Expert) has always had excellent articles that seemed relevant to issues we were looking at at the time - maybe because the articles were written by regular users (sys admins, people who did software development for a living) rather than "journalists". "Software Development" seems to have similar integrity. But I guess that's not what this guy was ranting about...
  • by Mr. Flibble ( 12943 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @09:53PM (#2233267) Homepage
    You need to read Tom's Hardware or Sharky Extreme. Even PC Computing (best for long flights, bird cages and darts). Tom's and Sharky's does the kind of detailed, intensive reporting that most magazines avoid.

    Quite true. His article makes alot of sense, now if he had only included
    The Register [] he would have rounded it out nicely. I can see that some posts are trying to take to task his portrayal of Slashdot as a Linux-Centric site. Come on. We all KNOW that this site is devoted to Linux Advocacy before tech journalism. There is nothing wrong with that. The main problem seems to be the rabid "knee jerk" reactions shown by the community in general here. (You only need to look at any story do do with Microsoft, and then read the comments therein.)

    The authors comments towards the PC Mag Review [] are bang on. ZD net has always had a positive bias toward Microsoft products just as (as the author mentions) Macaddict has favorable review of Macs. Not much of a surprise there. The reason that ZD is still around is that it is very business oriented, and it's reader base is very much entrenched in the Microsoft world.

    Maybe the net public realized this bias (or, perhaps I should say "lack of news") before the author did though. Myself and my friends frequently visit tech sites that are indepentant. In fact, in the list of independant sites we regularly visit we have noticed no layoffs of staff, or any change in the way they run their websites. If we the readers ignore the biased sites (and thus ignore the advertising) the site (which cannot now make any money sitting in their Aeron chairs) then the website dies.

    I have not noticed that many of the "dotcoms" are dissapearing. This is probably because I realized long ago what was a good website, and what was not. I think most of us have.
  • From the article:
    So the failure of the Mexican project is as surprising as college kids having unprotected sex in dorm rooms.

    Shit! College kids are having unprotected sex in dorm rooms? Where the hell am I when this shit happens... why ain't I part of this group? Ah, fuck it... I'm gonna go recompile the kernel again.

  • "Well, if you drop TV dinners over New Guinea, you'll kill people because the food will go bad because they will eat the melted, rotting food long before they getthe microwaves to cook it."

    I didn't get it.

    If they're eating the food, how is it rotting?

    Everything else was pretty smooth, though.

  • by Forkenhoppen ( 16574 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @10:23PM (#2233349)
    Pick up any tech publication these days, and you'll see this kind of thing. If you really want to see it, though, you should check out the gaming rags.

    GamePro is a good one to check if you want to see the antithesis of reporting. They put out a magazine full of screenshots and one or two paragraph previews and reviews. EGM at least tries for some content. (Even if it is very industry-praising.)

    In the PC market, if you want to see some really kiss-ass writing, grab any recent copy of PC Gamer. First, check the advertiser's index, and count the number of reviews for each company. Then check the review scores for said companies. See a correlation?

    These online "breaking news" sites aren't much better. Blue's News [], for instance, is a good place to go if you want to check out the current state of the gaming industry's PR department. I mean really, how many screenshots and developer's journals do they have to pump out before we finally get the point that oh, hey, they might actually be working on that game.. Anyone remember those Tribes 2 screenshots?

    Speaking of screenshots, if I see one more "exclusive," I think I'm gonna puke.

    VoodooExtreme []'s not much better, but at least they don't have ads all over the place.. and they filter out most of the "we just fixed another bug" crap.

    Ah well.. c'est la vie..
    • I hear ya, brother. I had to let my PC Gamer subscription lapse 2-3 years ago because I just couldn't stand their crap anymore. In that timeframe they've had almost 100% turnover (everyone except for the RPG and Wargamer reviewers, last I checked.) They tried to keep an upbeat tone but it was obvious that it was forced. At one time their ads were handled seperately but as time went on it became obvious that they were editing the mag so that they could run adverts on the opposite page as the review.

      I used to read boot as well but they started going south at around the same time. They changed their name to MaximumPC and were never quite the same again. As boot they would review nifty things like the BeBox, but as MaximumPC they would just pump out annother review for the latest whitebox Voodoo3. *gack*

  • by blang ( 450736 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @10:31PM (#2233379)
    The author brings up many points about poor and unethical journalism, and especially rants against internet and dotcom related journalism.

    His whole point is that this particular sector is unethical in an unprecedented degree. If this guy was a real journalist, he would know that this goes on in all kinds of press, and is nothing new.
    If he knew anything at all about journalism, he would know that the watergate expose is the exception, and not the rule.

    Most industries have a few myths that are generally accepted as truths. Today Ben Stein posted an interesting article on, dissecting the myth about the high longterm yields of the stock market. He showed that it is a myth. However, 99% of financial reporters and analysts accept this myth as pure truth. Does that make reporters of the financial sector crooked, or cold it just be incompetence, and lack of foresight.

    Every single industry has similar problems. Do you see many of the car magazines criticizing the industry, and the government for the SUV scandal?

    Does body builder magazines publish critical articles on the dangers, and use of steroids?

    When's the last time you saw one of the fashion magazones write that Kalvin Klein makes pretentious dozen ware, and DKNY makes ugly clothes?

    When's the last time a D.C. newspaper did a deep and dirty expose on congress, senate or white house, that had anything to do with the politics? Nope, they're too busy to dig up sex stories, leaving the pols to do their business unaudited.

    So I have to disagree with the author. Yes, there's a lot of crap in tech journalism, but that's not special. Crap journalism has been a readily available commodity for a long time, all over the place.

  • is like going to Ronald McDonald for nutritional advice.

    is like going to Bill Clinton for marital counseling and/or babysitting.

    is like going to Phillip Morris executives for help to quit smoking.

    C'mon people. If the journalists of this web site actually think of themselves as journalists, then I'm fucking George Lucas because I download movies off the net.

  • The dot-com failures were more than a failure of tech journalism. They were a national failure.

    Even after the dot-coms failed, the press did not bother to analyze what happened. There was a little analysis, but nothing in depth, either in the tech press or the business press.

    The failures were a huge tragic loss of money and time. But the mood was, oh well, on to something else.
  • Is there such a distinction?

    Just because Linux is a free OS does not make journalist advocacy any less unethical. Call them "non-profit whores" if you must. But no one is clean in this business. No one.

    Advocacy. []

    Shilling. []

  • Yeah, most tech-jouralism consists of towing the corporate line in a futile quest for goodies. It fuckin' blows.

    You have 'evangelists' who give only one one side of any issue and if the truth gets bent, well, so what? Eh?

    AOL buys NetScape at a fire sale and M$'s lawyers declare than the domain is "vibrant and alive." Yeah. With maggots and blow-flies feeding off the corpse of another ex-competitor.

    The software field needs a few "Deep Throats" in Redmond, Cupertino and everywhere else you get suck-dick regurgication of press releases. I want to see a Ralph Nader with a huge hard-on bashing these lying cock-suckers in the head with cinder-blocks.

    All we get to read are articles of faith written by the uneducated and underpaid to deceive, obfuscate and distort the qualifications of the pageant contestants. "She got great measurements does't she?" Yeah. I'm supposed to LIKE a girl with three tits and multiple rows teeth like a shark's? That blows but she won't... She'd better not ever try.

    Tech manuals aren't much better than hard-copy of the man pages. Choke and puke until you feel like a baby bird. You end up with a sour taste in your mouth (not your own) and screw all left in your wallet at $39.95 to fuck knows how much a pop, for some out-dated hunk of dead tree.

    Nobody writes how to USE anything because they don't have a clue what any crap is used for or by whom or how or when and certainly not why. They're liberal arts majors and write on Underwood manual typewriters. (I KNOW some okay?)

    I'm going to start a wiki on my site dedicated to everything that's WRONG with this shit. I'll flame the shit out of every ass-hole who cobbles some crap together without a clue as to what its for of how its used or why.

    They'll hate me. I don't give a crap.
  • Having written some articles in a past life for a now defunct technical/multi-media journal, I remember getting in particularly hot water. Something to do with PC MIDI cards, one in particular that was fresh, revolutionary, offered SMPTE, and didn't cut corners like some other companies.

    And though in my review, I was technically correct, and even though I did NOT mention any competitors, UBETCHA, one of these companies, particularly the one which took out several half page ads, demanded from the editors a retraction ... and my head on a stick.

    Needless to say, the magazine didn't ask me to write any further articles. Needless to say, as other, competent writers were also stifled for telling the truth, that the magazine languished in limbo for almost a year ... then died an unnoticed death.

    It was fun to write articles, but I noticed alot of authors in it for the conventions and parties that came along with the press pass. I also began to notice several other editors who sucked up to advertising clients, even when the technology begged otherwise.

    I also noticed that many such magazines are short-lived.
  • Journalism in general is dead.

    It was replaced by "entertainment" and "advocacy" a long time asgo.

    In an entire 4 year "Journbalism degree" my alma mater had not one section of one course on "Journalism ethics."

    Journalism is dead, greed and stupidity killed it. Its enterred a mass grave with such things as "politics" and "community spirit".

    So it goes.
  • Let us isolate some of his specific allegations and see if they are, on balance, true:

    Linux skepticism is long overdue, but the missionary ideologues jump on your back and kick you in the balls. The kind of independent tech journalism needed to cover Linux doesn't exist.

    If Oracle could run MS into the ground today, they would do it. Taking sides in such a battle is a core betrayal of everything journalism should stand for.

    Consumer Reports has the right idea, but they are so stodgy that they are nearly useless to the average consumer.

    Take Windows ME. What a piece of crash-daily crap. ME was a horrible OS. It barely worked...

    Many dotmags were as ethically challenged as a Mexican policeman.

    Now the San Jose Mercury News ... is run by some of the most gutless people ever to call themselves journalists

    The reality is that everyone had their heads up their asses because they thought they were going to be rich.

    Hell, there would be no Microsoft without the feds investing trillions in technology.

    Do these statements sound like neutral and detached coverage that he extolls? Given the hyperbole, are his conclusions likely to be sound?

    His point seems to be: The one lesson that all these online rags never got is that if you are a pimp today, when things get shitty, people will turn on you.

    What perhaps he should explain is why the market place sometimes punishes the publications he calls unreliable and sometimes it doesn't.

    And I can't let this overwrought assertion pass: Journalism is a noble profession when done right. And people get killed doing it every year.

    Nobody gets killed writing about technology either truthfully and not. The worst that happens is that they get their backs jumped on or kicked in the balls by Linux zealots, who are a notoriously mean and ornery bunch.

  • by sbeitzel ( 33479 ) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @01:01AM (#2233726) Homepage Journal
    He brings up some very good points -- and the sort of backhand at Slashdot isn't anything that hasn't been said and nodded at by everyone here, and yeah, I'm sure we'll all get over it. Where he runs into a problem, though, is in his amusing assertion that the "legitimate" media [characterization is mine, not a quote] have and adhere to these standards of ethics. That's laughable. I wish I could find the references now, but I don't remember whether it was in the San Francisco Chronicle [] or the San Francisco Bay Guardian [] that I read about the publishing policy at the Los Angeles Times [] a few years ago -- where the publisher overruled the editorial staff and declared that no articles that were antagonistic to the advertisers would be run.

    It's true of every news organ that the subscription fees (if any) do not even come close to financing the business. News outlets, whether they're radio, television, print, or online, are not actually in business for the reader. It's the same old story, guys: Follow the Money. The people who are actually making these "news" organs into profitable businesses are the advertisers, and don't think that the editorial and publishing staffs don't know this. They know exactly who their customers are. The customers are the advertisers. And their product is their subscriber base. The way they manufacture their product is to spew forth infotainment designed to keep their product's infamously short attention span focused on the medium long enough to score an ad impression.

    The only part of this article that I really disagree with is his holier-than-thou attitude. Yeah right, offline media have ethics. Go watch The Insider [] and look at how 60 Minutes [] -- big guns in traditional media, I'd say -- sucked up to tobacco.

    If you're in journalism, you're a whore. So what? We're mostly not down on prostitution around here, so long as we get our share. Here's fifty bucks; suck on this.
  • Let's face it. The mass media is the entertainment industry. That's right, newspapers make their money off of advertising. How many subscriptions does the NYT need to get in order to make up for one lost full page add? Probably more than six digits worth.

    When eurodisney was doing crappy a while ago (AFAIK they still are) they spent a lot of advertising money. You know what they did? They bought an entire issue of a German magazine. Nothing to do with high tech, but every article in the magazine was about disney.

    Next time you watch the news, and you see something that doesn't really seem like news ask yourself the following questions:
    • Does this draw viewers? (Think T&A fluff)
    • Is this really advertising? (Fluff story about some product)
    • If this isn't normally covered in the news, why are they making time for it? (There is *always* enough material for the news.

    The magazines, all of them, know who their customers are: The advertisers. If you're dealing with a for profit publication that advertises, you can pretty much throw out the notion of integrity.

    If you're dealing with a group of people that have a common interest they will certainly be biased.
  • Take a look at this []. It claims to be a "Report" but is obviously whoring for va-linux, who happens to own Newsforge.

    Initially it tries to be critical but towards the end we get this wonderful commercial for sourceforge.

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.