I’d like to begin this letter by saying that I didn’t write my post yesterday to slip in some snarky, backhanded attempt to “get you”. You have been a phenomenal inspiration to budding tech journalists for years, myself included.
It is not my intention to detract from your past work, merely to point out the inconsistencies that appear in your ‘ professional history’, if you will. Some may construe your remarks on This Week in Tech as an attempt to distance yourself from the hallows of professional journalism. Regardless of whether you felt your words were taken out of context, what remains is the fact of how people perceive those words and the meaning it has to them. I certainly took it based on the words you used:
“The thing that I objected to the most about John Dvorak’s tearing me down on Twitter is that, ‘You’re a disgrace to journalism…' Since when have I ever billed myself as a journalist? I am not a reporter, I’ve never been to journalism school.”
You work for the New York Times and you write a regular column. You conduct interviews with well-known public figures in the tech industry, you conduct product reviews on items which most journalists cannot. You are a journalist.
I too have never been to journalism school. I started writing news stories when I was in grade school, writing a better paper that sold 2 copies to 1 over the official school newspaper. I have never taken a journalism course in my entire life, either. The closest I came was a pop culture writing class in college. My love for technology mixed with my early news-writing ambitions, thanks to inspiration from Leo Laporte and I now do what I do as my own business.
My point is that it doesn’t take schooling to be a journalist. It takes a passion for writing, a sense of direction, an ability to look at things from multiple sides and a dedication to ethical standards that makes one able to write true journalism.
“I like my interview subjects to like me.”
There is nothing wrong with this to the extent that your subject doesn’t feel like they’re in hostile territory while you’re asking them questions. However, its a completely different set of affairs when you take the approach of essentially offering your column as a public relations piece to Apple and Mr. Jobs. Usually, opinions are based in fact to a certain degree and it is the interpretation of facts mixed with personal beliefs that morph themselves into those opinions. Downright pandering to get whatever edge on a story you think you might obtain is still just that – pandering. And it’s not a quality something I like writers in my field to possess.
In retrospect, it may have been a bit abrupt to include you with the likes of Mike Arrington. However, I would be remiss in my ethical duty to ignore the inconsistencies of your reporting. Am I supposed to turn a blind eye to the fact that you write Missing Manuals for just about every Apple and Mac related product and not construe this as a HUGE conflict of interest. Do you think readers would be as anticipatory of your upcoming Missing Manual for Snow Leopard if you gave it a poor review? Of course not. Regardless of whether it influenced your article, it gives a perceived notion of bias, and this is something you should avoid at all costs.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that I am not ‘out to get you’. I am simply posing a contrary viewpoint to your comment left on my post yesterday, now that I have had more time to amply digest your words. I have nothing but respect for those in your position, writing articles for the nation to read.
I just want you to try harder.