I have a new tech startup. It’s called Breadlines. It’s a ‘fitness app’ for your mobile home ‘platform.’
Comrades: the United States economy gained a paltry 80 thousand jobs last month. This is down from a sad 125 thousand jobs (give or take) the month prior. To put this in context, in 2008 and 2009 we lost approximately 500 thousand jobs per month. For several months.
And while most Americans struggle to pay the bills, we – the tech press – continue to obsess over which shiny company acquired which trendy startup for for how many billions of dollars. This is shameful.
Tech press leverage the glamour, affluence, and access of tech companies for its own gain. And I get it: “eyeballs” equal ad revenue. I’m in this business too. I don’t blame media companies for trying to generate traffic and revenue. Highly vertical blogs and podcasts work and make do money. And it’s perceived as dangerous to venture too far outside of a vertical.
Neither do I don’t blame tech companies for raising money or for selling for the highly number possible. This is what industry does, and that’s fine.
The press does have a responsibility to do more than to talk about the next shiny gadget. Yet most tech press seem terrified of discussing the core relationship between the tech business, the economy, and politics. Politics and tech journalism are perceived to be anathema.
But fear does not excuse responsibility. While many tech blogs and news outlets are eager claim the mantle of journalism, most shun responsibilities beyond those to their shareholders or ‘readers’ (read: clickers). And, many most engage in shady traffic-generating tactics.
We live, work, and play in a diverse and connected ecosystem. The economy is a big deal, and we’re throes of a presidential campaign that will utilize technology like no previous cycle. It is now egregiously irresponsible for the tech press to ignore the convergence between policy, technology, and the economy.
Technology is wonderful and empowering. Greater access to information equals a greater society. But the massive scale of tech product adoption and corporate money juxtaposed with job loss and depressed workers is glaringly ironic. And thus far much of the tech press has done a woeful job of covering non-vertical issues.
The press was once viewed as public servants. While never a major profit center, journalism once asked the tough questions of industry leaders and politicians. This is, was, and should remain our responsibility.
There’s nothing at all wrong with ethically making money. But Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest rise as the Eurozone collapses and the US economy sinks. And The Quest for Clicks has justified the media’s focus on the sensational and rewarded other other base and sycophantic behavior.
Much of the tech press performs great commodity reporting, and this is fine. The insideous nature of traffic-driving tactics is reletive, depending on an organization’s culture. Yet the ‘clickbait’ tactics and editorial emphasis on triviality employed by a few of the ethically questionable organizations is starting to creep in to many journalistic institutions.
As the world becomes more reliant on technology we need to foster a culture within tech journalism that encourages inquisitiveness and a willingness to investigate the closeted skeletons of tech leaders. Now – Right now! Today! – we need a responsible tech press that is willing to trade a few clicks for increased social responsibility.