Tech Journalism Has the Same Faults as Other Beats

Timothy B. Lee, writing in Asterisk:

Over the last decade, Silicon Valley elites have grown increasingly frustrated with media coverage of their industry. And they aren’t wrong that coverage has grown increasingly negative. But I think they’re wrong to assume this reflects a hostility toward Silicon Valley in particular.

A more banal explanation is that companies like Google, Facebook, and Uber aren’t startups anymore. It no longer makes sense to publish positive profiles introducing readers to these companies. So reporters have switched to treating Silicon Valley giants like other big companies, which means mostly writing about them when they do something wrong.

Lee is right that tech journalism often consists of thin stories built off press releases and simplistic narratives — but so, too, does most general audience journalism. While there is the occasional nuanced story with correct weighting given to affirming and dissenting views, it is far more common to see misapplied view from nowhere journalism. But, critically, this is true of all beats. Erwin Knoll once said “everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true except for the rare story of which you happen to have firsthand knowledge”, and that includes knowledge of media itself. Given how pressured journalists are, as Lee is careful to note, it is not difficult to see why stories across a range of topics become either pure boosterism or damp scandals.