One of the things I’ve railed on for a while is how I believe the majority of the enthusiast press–at least in the tech and gaming spaces–is broken. Not just dysfunctional, bloody broken. It’s an important subset of the media, intended to cater to the most passionate fans. As someone who lives and breaths technology and gaming to what some might consider an unhealthy degree, I should be loving it and soaking it in. Instead, I now ignore all but a few places. Much like cable news, they’ve become little more than carefully manipulated outlets for big company PR, often terrified of being properly critical of certain things for fear of losing precious access. Everything’s about publishing first, not accurately, rumours are printed as fact, nothing’s authenticated and analysts are fished for quotes constantly and never called to account when they’re wrong.
Yesterday, inexplicably popular technology blog Gizmodo provided one of the best examples of everything I bitch about.
David Pogue is not a journalist. Oh he calls himself one, make no mistake. He even works as the technology writer for supposedly one of the few remaining bastions of journalism, The New York Times. What Pogue is, is a professional Apple fanboy, something I say without hyperbole. He reviews Apple products and never finds a fault with any of them, though he finds and overhypes many that he manages to find in anything that competes. He goes out of his way to be smarmy and sometimes downright mean to anyone who dares to say that Apple products are not the best by default and claim that something else is perhaps of better value. He was one of the chief deniers of Apple’s many labour problems in China. Worst of all, his main source of income aside from the Times is writing books on the Apple same products he reviews, most of which come out the same day or the day after. Any way you slice it, he’s represents the very antithesis of good journalism. The man’s a two-faced hack.
Yesterday, he lost his iPhone, a clumsy thing that happens to many. So what does Gizmodo do with this utter non-event? They write a story about it, rally their community into action and post not 1 or 2 or 3 but 18 bloody updates throughout the day detailing the whole process of helping a wealthy fanboy find a phone he could probably get a free replacement for with a quick call to his masters in Cupertino. This is disgusting, there’s no other word for it. Why does anyone losing their iPhone warrant a full investigative piece with 18 updates, let alone a person for whom the event likely had less impact on than most Apple employees? If Ed Bott lost his Windows Phone 7 device, would anyone there write a story about it, except maybe to laugh? I highly doubt it. Really, I can’t explain everything that’s wrong with this garbage in a reasonable amount of words. Just click the link if you dare and see for yourself. You can’t not see what’s wrong with that if you have any sense.
Gizmodo’s one of the many hack sites that’s part of the Gawker network. They’re known for doing this kind of crap, not that it makes it right. This wouldn’t bother me too much if it had stayed within their realm as the people who volunteer to read that tripe usually know what they’re getting into. However, a quick search of “gizmodo pogue iphone” shows that this got rebroadcast by the likes of CNN, The Atlantic and a bunch of other places, all of which should know better. This event was junk non-news any way you slice it but it got everywhere and was treated as major news. I’m sure David Pogue is sitting back, smugly satisfied at the way he’s played his fans and the press like a two dollar banjo, giving both himself and the company he covers while taking paycheques from a bunch of free press neither earned.
I’m ranting about this a lot but frankly, it really pisses me off. We have a field that is in desperate need for proper journalism. Gaming and technology are expensive and growing markets where people need to be properly informed and honest details from reporters, not repackaged PR need to be out there. While there isn’t much, there are a few who are genuinely trying to cover this stuff with a proper attention to professionalism and journalistic standards. I fear that they’re having little impact though because they’re routinely drowned out by stories about a nationwide Internet manhunt for a professional fanboy’s iPhone. It’s not as if Apple doesn’t get a disproportionate amount of coverage and lack of criticism already but their PR people must have been grinning ear to ear watching this unfold yesterday.
Has journalism truly become this cynical, this amateur, this disrespectful of the people it serves? Is this really what people want or are people just reading it because unless you want to spend hours a day digging up the real journalism, this is the best they can get? Top that off with another Gawker site whining about how one of the biggest problems in gaming coverage is that publishers don’t bend over to give them all the access they want exactly when they want it and it’s enough to make an enthusiast like me tear his hair out.
Gizmodo should be better than this, David Pogue should be better than this and The New York Times should damn well be better than this. They should all be ashamed of themselves for what happened yesterday, as should anyone who willingly participated in that farce that spits in the face of journalism. I think we as consumers of the coverage they produce should be demanding better. People who write books for Apple shouldn’t be reviewing their products, sites with any respect shouldn’t be writing about when they clumsily lose their toys and we shouldn’t be giving traffic to this crap. Is it that they started writing this lazy tripe first or that we started demanding it? Is there any reason it can’t be both? We should be demanding better and when crap like this is printed as news, it should be mocked and ignored, not validated with readership. If you want real information and real journalism, you need to demand it and reward it. It’s getting harder and harder to just get the truth anymore.