Journalism is in real trouble. Particularly Tech Journalism. I’ve known this for some time but it became crystallised in my mind following my recent attendance of a press event for a large tech company.
Sitting with my Macbook Pro on my lap in a crowd of several hundred bloggers and journalists from across the globe, it felt a little bit like I was in Church. I thought to myself “I’m surrounding by people who’ve drank the technology cool aid”. The more tech they consume, the more they need to. I love tech but I’m capable of drawing the line. Everywhere I looked throughout the event there were people with their heads down, in supposedly social situations buried in touchscreens – unaware of how disconnected from the moment they were.
Tech companies don’t care about how addicted their users are, they just care about the positive sycophantic praise from journalists, who themselves are hooked. Everyone is pro-establishment in these arenas. There’s a media bias generated by how exclusive and privileged the journalists feel at these kinds of events and when they receive a free trip to a world class city, as I had in this situation, all the more reason to be overly favourable in their reviews. These keynotes are like mass brainwashing events designed like Apple’s famous big brother TV commercials from the 1980s.
If a journalist is overly critical or genuinely honest, they may risk losing their position of privilege and not being invited back. There’s a prestige associated with these events. Everyone wants to be seen to be within the in-crowd. Journalists desire exclusive access to these kinds of events because they demonstrate the social capital they possess in the industry and a measurement of how successful they are as a journalist. But this isn’t journalism, it’s just copying and pasting press releases. If we can’t be honest and provide true unbiased analysis and review products without the overriding feeling that we might get struck off or having their reputation damaged within the industry, we’re fooling ourselves and our audience.
What makes these events worse is that the presentation speakers never accept questions from the floor. Nothing can be questions, this approach has successfully helped Apple create their reality distortion field time and time again at their events.
Either you’re a journalist or you’re a glorified freelance press officer for any company that seduces you with extravagant trips around the world. The more you consume their PR messages and self-censor out of fear of being left out in the cold, the more you’ll start to believe the messages they put out. Here we are listening to these tech companies talk about their upcoming products, all the while we feverishly blog, Tweet and dutifully swoon about these new products on the previous gen devices they sold us on last year. Are we crazy or just desperate for industry validation from the established tech companies? If a company produces crap, I’m going to say it, if they produce quality, I’ll say that too.
Journalism is failing the average consumer and we as journalists should be ashamed of ourselves.