Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Canonization of St.Bill, and my comments

"The answer to either question is worse than the other. But when responsible media organizations who tonight are celebrating Gates achievements next turn to the thorny subject of business ethics, they may have a harder time convincing us that they're sincere about the subject. "

I think he meant to say "either answer to the question", nevertheless a good article.

As to how and why media so often gets it wrong (and my theory is that they get it wrong well over half the time) it probably has a lot to do with deadlines, and word counts, but most of all, it has to do with what got many of these people into media in the first place. The full answer may be the subject for a much longer article, but the short answer is that "to seek the truth" is not a part of the long answer. Most journalists have an agenda, and for most it is a hidden one. Discovering the agenda is quite literally an exercise left to the reader.

Generally I've found that when I read or listen to the news I can count on the first and sometimes the second sentence being a true fact (or at least true as far as the reporter is concerned). Go beyond that first sentence or two and you are on shaky ground, in fact by mid paragraph you may be irretrievably in 180-degree-off territory. Several examples are given in the linked article. No, Gates didn't invent the computer, or even the PC, and many would debate that he did anything to make them more useful or usable.

What Gates, in the form of Microsoft, did with a lot of help from Intel was trim our decision path too soon. Of course IBM had a lot to do with this, by anointing Intel and Microsoft as the primary subcontractors for the PC a lot of other microprocessors, motherboard designs, operating systems, compilers and so on were written off (by these same journalists for the most part) almost overnight.

At no point since has the media shown any interest in alternatives that might be or might have been. Until recently Apple has been relegated to niche status, and it has been taken for granted for a very long time that companies like SGI and SUN would eventually be ground to dust by the overwhelming power of Intel and Microsoft, and so it has been. Which hint at the answer to the question about why journalists become journalist, which is that they seek to make the truth rather than to find it.

Although journalists often state the facts exactly as they aren't they can only divert the course of future events in subtle ways and often, the big ocean liner of history doesn't arrive anywhere near the port that they were aiming for. Still, I think the satisfaction comes with moving the wheel at all, not with arriving at any particular place. So, when some event with a mass of its own arrives in our sights, it is often too late to have a debate about whether to veer left or right, and hitting it head on or scraping up along side it for a few hundred feet becomes the realm of "fate".

Maybe, just maybe, the selection of non-Intel hardware as the basis for the next generation game consoles will represent the sort of sea change over which the "conventional wisdom" of journalists has no control. With that change, there might come a convenient place to select a new, or at least different operating system to go with it. Microsoft is already hedging its bets, maybe some journalists will be too. Apple, inexplicably abandoned ship, and is swimming toward the iceberg...

Oh wait, now I'm reminded why I am not a journalist. I paint my way into lousy metaphors. Or something.

PS: In the above discussion I didn't mention headlines. Headlines as we mostly all know are created after the article is written, usually by someone other than the author. They often bear no relationship to anything in the article at all. What passes through the minds of those creating the headlines is a whole different topic.

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