Skip to main content

Don't rely on mainstream media for your technology news

It may sound a harsh judgement, but I have come to believe that no one should rely on mainstream media sources for their technology news. For the most part, mainstream media is trying to report on stories they simply don't understand. They are looking for sensational exposes and stories that make good headlines, but -- much in the same way they report on science stories -- mainstream media focuses on creating fear surrounding our technology and reporting those stories at a knowledge level that can best be described as elementary.

One of the largest problems that mainstream media faces is making technology understandable to the "average" person, whoever that might actually be. Often reporters, editors and producers don't really understand the story. They are simply parroting what they heard from one of their sources. Of course, as in the recent case of Mike Daisey's claims about the Apple-hired Foxconn manufacturer in China, these sources often have an agenda of their own and can manipulate their stories for greatest effect. 

When a trusted source of news like NPR's This American Life is fooled by someone like Daisey, it pulls back the curtain on the mainstream media's "Wizard." Showing them to be nothing but repeaters of rumor, not creators of news. Once again, it shows how little mainstream media understands technology.

Mainstream media 2
Mainstream media is also limited in the time and space they have available to report a story. These two factors lead to simplistic explanations of highly complicated issues and stories that can be outright wrong. The further pressure of deadlines and the old-fashioned concept of "breaking news" means that stories are often incomplete -- reporting rumor as fact. The problem being, of course, that official correction are few and far between and even then usually buried in the back pages of the publication or at the end of the newscast where very few people notice them.

Such bad reporting often leads to the technological equivalent of the urban legend. Microsoft Vista was unusable. Apple's new iPad will burn your fingers. Every iPhone app is stealing your private information. People are tracking your every movement via your cell phone -- and using it to rob your house. Apple is torturing its Foxconn employees in virtual slavery. Good, well-researched stories take time to develop. You need multiple sources and sources that truly understand the issue and can explain it to anyone, no matter how technical it might be.

But I wouldn't expect stories like that any time soon. In the technology equivalent of "If it bleeds, it leads", sensational stories and stories that build fear will always be the main fodder for mainstream media. They are simply unequipped to report on technology stories beyond the most basic of terms. 

This is why online news sources, while exhibiting some of the same faults as mainstream, have an advantage. The best technology news sources have learned from their technology underpinning how to "iterate" their news stories very quickly. Stories can absorb new information and opinions quickly. The public can chime in on the story to request more information and to help explain the issues from their standpoint. With more "eyes and ears" on the story, they are able to develop it more quickly and, hopefully, more accurately and intelligently than the mainstream media. Sure, not every online new source gets their reporting right. They can fall victim to the same problems as mainstream media, but it is hoped that the new methods of developing stories can lead to better coverage of technology stories overall.

So the next time a friend or relative calls or emails with a suspect technology news story, please remind them that mainstream media might not be the best source for reporting on technology stories, especially if those stories involve new and/or complicated technology or issues. Direct them to your favorite news sites where they can find a, hopefully more accurate assessment of the issue.


Popular posts from this blog

Audio: Social Networks - LIVE from the Library Internet Seminar - November 8, 2007

This night we talked about social networks, the Writer's Guild Strike, traditional media and the future of new media. Listen to this seminar Links discussed in this seminar: MySpace - Add me as a friend in MySpace Facebook - Add me as a friend on Facebook LinkedIn - Connect to me on LinkedIn YouTube - Watch my videos on YouTube Garden Fork TV The Minimalist with Mark Bittman quarterlife The Wish Book Holiday Podcast Project

This DIY domino clock tells the time using three LED-lit tiles via Arduino Blog

After coming across Carbon Design Group’s Domino Wall Clock, which uses electronic magnetic coil motors to reveal white dots, Instructables member “Kothe” decided to create a simplified version of their own. The clock is comprised of three custom dominoes — the first tile for hours, the second and third for minutes. Unlike its inspiration, Kothe’s device uses addressable RGB LEDs as dots that allow for a variety of colors to shine through. Read This DIY domino clock tells the time using three LED-lit tiles via Arduino Blog An interesting link found among my daily reading

Onion Pi makes your web traffic anonymous via Open Electronics

Hmmm, might be an easy (and relatively cheap) way to play around with Tor and learn a bit more about this anonymizing service. -- Douglas Adafruit’s Onion Pi is a Tor proxy that makes your web traffic anonymous, allowing you to use the internet free of snoopers and any kind of surveillance. Follow Adafruit’s tutorial on setting up Onion Pi and you’re on your way to a peaceful anonymous browsing experience. Tor is an onion routing service – every internet packet goes through 3 layers of relays before going to your destination. This makes it much harder for the server you are accessing (or anyone snooping on your Internet use) to figure out who you are and where you are coming from. Read Onion Pi makes your web traffic anonymous via Open Electronics * A portion of each sale from directly supports our blogs ** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! An interesting link found among my daily reading