Is There a Double Standard for Tech Journalists?


The Washington Post’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, has an interesting piece in today’s paper about the departure of reporter David Weigel from the Post and the retirement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal from his job in leading the Afghanistan war effort.

McChrystal, the better known of the two, gave Rolling Stone magazine an ill-advised interview where he and his officers criticized President Obama, Vice President Biden and others over their handling of the Afghan war.

Weigel is more of an inside-the-Beltway figure.

Hired by the Post to cover conservative politics, Weigel resigned after his personal opinions criticizing politicians and other conservative figures came to light. (Weigel had shared them on a private list serv of other journalists, a service where remarks were understood to be “off the record”.)

While Kurtz was writing about Weigel and presumably journalists who cover politics, when I read this passage, it jumped off the page… er, I mean screen.

And yes, Virginia, journalists have opinions. Straight-news reporters usually do their best to keep their biases out of their work (although story selection, language and tone are invariably affected). The new hybrids — bloggers who work for mainstream newspapers — can serve up analysis and attitude, a welcome flavor infusion for the often bland ingredients of daily journalism. But trash-talking — at least if it becomes public — is another matter.

Would Kurtz write the same thing about the writers at the tech desk of a daily newspaper?

These writers not only, “serve up analysis and attitude” but they also often “trash talk” about the companies and products they cover. Despite that,  I can’t recall a tech writer who’s ever felt the need to resign as Weigel did for expressing a personal opinion.

Indeed, most of these writers brandish their opinions on Twitter, You Tube, Facebook or anywhere else people will watch, read or listen. As readers, we know which ones are fanboys and which ones aren’t. There’s nothing “off the record” and from what I can tell, they like it that way.

But watch the tech writers, particularly those at daily newspapers, bristle when readers call them out for their fanboy opinionsreflexive criticisms or over-the-top reviews.

Perhaps daily newspapers with tech writers on staff should consider doing what the Post did with Weigel’s blog. It positioned Weigel as a conservative covering conservative politics.

Or perhaps leave should leave the fanboy business to the tech blogs and instead work to cover technology objectively like um… I don’t know… newspapers.

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