A couple of months ago New York magazine’s economics writer Kevin Roose asked whether tech journalists are generally afraid to write “objectively” and/or criticize their subjects. In other words, do the sites reporting on Silicon Valley residents—from Google-sized giants to tiny dorm-room startups—simply rework press releases penned by the companies they cover?
Interesting question; for one site, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
In a New York Times interview, blogger Sam Biddle of Gawker Media’s “tech industry gossip dartboard” Valleywag states that his goal is to make light of the digital world’s “lack of self-awareness” in the midst of so much overwhelmingly positive publicity. He specifically says that many other sites “[do] the bidding of the industry” they cover by hyping every single product rollout as the greatest thing since electricity and refusing to cast any related “thought leaders” in a less-than-flattering light.
Sounds a little dramatic, but he may be onto something here…
Valleywag shut down for some time after the Great Recession struck, but Gawker principals decided to bring it back as the economy’s slow recovery brought “a return of excessive spending and obnoxious behavior in the Valley”. Recent hot topics include the Sheryl Sandberg unpaid intern scandal, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s public firing debacle, Sean Parker’s post-wedding damage control campaign, et cetera et cetera. In other words, it’s a lot of the same stuff we cover, but with more exposure and a greater focus on tech folk.
Some of Biddle’s targets seem to think he’s just jealous of their success while others see an exercise in speaking truth to power.
The debate is this: do blogs like Valleywag exist to make the jobs of tech journalists and PR pros more difficult, or do they provide a necessary counterbalance to an industry that seems to think it can do no wrong and a media clique that will gladly reinforce that misperception to the public?