Tech journalism is unique in the abject pass that has been handed it to conflate the products with the news. Imagine with me a world of journalism in which most crime reporters constantly cover the new features on the most recently developed gun, and rarely have enough time or space to write about... crime or its impacts on society. Or a world in which TV and movie reviewers merely fawn over the latest feature in the newest television set or discuss the feature battle between set-top box manufacturers, and rarely discuss their experience of any actual film or TV production.
Imagine your education news is chalk full of what new textbooks are coming out, and which textbook manufacturer "won" last year. Your favorite politics reporter spends their column inches reciting gritty details of the many laws that were passed the prior day. In all other ways, news and reporting is highly sensitive to context and impact. But with tech journalism, what are we treated to? You could be forgiven for wondering if the vast majority of tech reporters are in some kind of round-robin employ of popular device and software manufacturers. We know with profoundly disturbing detail the next console, the next device, the next chip, the next version of the next app. To what end?
For most, it's to no end. Some consume these details with investment decisions in mind, others out of interest in the hobby. The rest of us, looking for reports of how technology continues to disrupt and overturn the future and many aspects of our current daily lives, are handed a pan and are expected to stick it in the river of the internet. Speckles of tech journalism gold appear sometimes, occasionally a nugget drifts downstream. Here's a "story" about a new app that wants to be your virtual assistant (but the app sure does need work.) Next story: which social media network "won" in 2013. Stories you might also be interested in: how the NSA has subverted technology to log vast and innumerable aspects of your life.
If you're looking for the important tech stories, you need to be subscribed to dozens of publications which only cover technology on occasion. I thought the infant news website "The Information," begun in December of 2013 by tech journalism insiders, appeared to be positioning to crack this nut. But take a look at the headlines it's putting up and it's just more of the same (at a $40/month subscription): product reviews. Android, HP and T-Mobile products require expensive daily reading, according to "The Information" so far. YouTube's CEO struggled as ad sales declined, and Google wants to sell you a smart thermostat for your home. Meanwhile, YouTube has recently been blocked in Pakistan. Does anyone know what the impacts of YouTube censorship are on a developing society? And, while I'm sure the smart thermostat is great, does anyone know what ever came of Google's efforts to give free phone numbers and voicemail access to the homeless all those years ago?
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Technology and journalism in San Diego.