I have a couple of journalist friends that have been lamenting the demise of journalism in general and newspapers in particular. Both of my parents were journalists (AP, UPI, NYT, Time-Life), so I was brought up with and can appreciate journalism as we once knew it.
However, journalism itself changed drastically even before blogs and the Internet. As "the news" became a big business, there was this obsession with making the news "objective" by massaging facts to appease the overall audience. Telling people what they didn't want to hear meant they would watch/read less, which meant less advertising revenue. We saw this during the prelude to the Iraq War, and even today with editorial boards going into contortions over what to call "torture." Dan Lyons pointed out how the business press is sycophantic in its reporting of Apple.
The turning point for me was watching CNN last year during the oil crisis. There was a story on the price of oil, with a breakdown of how the $110 for a barrel of oil was distributed between gas stations, refineries, oil companies, taxes, etc. At the end of the piece, there was an interview with an oil industry lobbyist that stated that the price of a barrel of oil had no relevance to the profits of the oil companies. Did CNN question this or state that this was in conflict with the facts that they had just laid out? No. That wouldn't be fair. Maybe they would lose their access to the oil lobby!
When the mainstream news media refuses to question or challenge anything at all so as to not annoy some people, it is no longer journalism in my opinion. If the reporter is looking at a blue car, does he/she have to report that some people think that the car is red, rather than reporting that some people are color blind? Is that really venturing an opinion?
Nowadays, I read blogs for my news. I read tech blogs, design blogs, liberal blogs, conservative blogs. I see which ways different people are spinning a story, and I form my own opinion. Guess what: Sarah Palin has no clue about foreign policy. The bank bailouts have no metrics associated with them. It's called torture if I would be arrested for felony assault for doing it to someone. There are some things that can be ascertained by simply observing, and should be reported as such. It does not matter if it pisses people off, just tell things like they are! There is definitely a place for fact-checked, insightful articles, but putting them in a Wolf Blitzer-style, "don't want to offend anyone" context that does not point out the obvious mutes the story and is no longer relevant to anyone.
And stop wasting trees to send text around! :)
- Peter Yared
- Peter Yared is the CTO/CIO of CBS Interactive, a top ten Internet destination, and was previously the founder and CEO of four enterprise infrastructure companies that were acquired by Sun, VMware, Webtrends and TigerLogic. Peter's software has powered brands from Fidelity to Home Depot to Lady Gaga. At Sun, Peter was the CTO of the Application Server Division and the CTO of the Liberty federated identity consortium. Peter is the inventor of several patents on core Internet infrastructure including federated single sign on and dynamic data requests. Peter began programming games and utilities at age 10, and started his career developing systems for government agencies. Peter regularly writes about technology trends for CNET and has also written for the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, VentureBeat and AdWeek.
Many thanks to Bob Pulgino, Dave Prue, Steve Zocchi and Jean-Louis Gassée for mentoring me over the years.