Despite my frequent Instagram and Klout posts, I’m not a tech pundit. If anything, I think of myself a journalism pundit, and the coverage of Instagram’s Terms of Service debacle has convinced me that technology journalism, at least from anything other than independent bloggers, is dead.
When half-baked bullshit like this post from CNET that, as far as I can tell, was based on a misreading of the terms and a desire to cash in on the hysteria, is what comes from a large organization and even Wired, who I normally respect getting in on the act, it’s clear that there are two kinds of journalism left covering the tech world: regurgitation of press releases and gadget announcements and wild, barely-informed speculation about the latest trending topic.
In fact, about the only bright spot was The Verge having Nilay Patel (who has a law degree) dissect what the terms ACTUALLY mean. And you didn’t need a law degree to do that; just a basic comprehension of how terms of service or end user license agreements work. How does at least one person at every site covering technology not have that?
I’m not a fan of sober, dispassionate reporting—I think the analysis that journalist bring to the table is a key part of succeeding in the modern media—but there is—has to be—a difference between clear analysis based on experience and writing inflammatory, link-bait posts about the topic of the nanosecond.
There is a difference between being first and being the first one who is right, and when traffic is the name of the game being first trumps all, but it shouldn’t.
And none of this is even touching on the fact that most technology journalism is little more that nerd-baiting wish-fulfillment, predicated on the idea that more is better and that everyone needs to know the exact specification of every gadget as it’s released. It’s calorie-dense, nutrition-free content; easy to churn out and monetize.
There are some good ones out there: Gruber, of course, Jim Dalrymple and the rest of the crew at The Loop, and the folks at GigaOM get it right most of the time. But there are dozens more sites that are focused on pageviews and clickthroughs above all else.
There’s really only one solution, and it’s hard to implement: Don’t look. Stop reading sites that practice the half-assed idiocy that passes for tech journalism these days. Let’s kill technology journalism. Then we can rebuild it.