Things have gotten out of hand. Tech writers are given far too much freedom to perpetuate inaccuracies and falsehoods, as well as a generous helping of incompetence these days. That’s why it’s time to put a bit of structure in place for those publications that don’t understand good work from bad work.
What follows are the New Rules of Tech Journalism. Wouldn’t life be grand if the sites we read every day followed even two or three of these things? I know I’m asking for 15 separate miracles, so take the below with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
1. If you must quote an analyst, he or she must be from the approved list.
Not all analysts are created equally. If you plan on quoting one in your piece, said person must come from the list of approved analysts. Here’s the list:
If your analyst is not on that list, he or she should not be included in your article.
2. Headlines that violate Betteridge’s Law of Headlines must be rewritten.
Does your headline end in a question that can be answered with a simple yes or no answer? Did you only write it that way to bait clicks? Will Batman and Robin escape the Penguin’s clutches? Fix the headline. It’s lazy.
3. The only numbers that matter are real ones.
Wall Street is an enigma wrapped in a poorly tailored suit and a tacky tie. Its reality is different from our own and yet, the made up numbers coming from analysts and traders matter more than the actual numbers being reported by companies. Apple made $37 billion last quarter, but fell short of The Street’s imaginary math? Amazon’s stock shot up on a billion dollar loss because it has “potential” it keeps failing to meet? Doesn’t matter anymore.
All journalists must henceforth report the facts. Unless a company reports a loss or does not meet or beat last quarter’s numbers, the word “disappointing” should appear nowhere in an article, nor a headline.
4. No more slideshows.
5. Rumors must be reported as rumors.
Your “sources” aren’t good enough anymore. Sure, that Smart Keyboard Cover sounds like a done deal for the next keynote, what with the Apple invitation’s clear use of the word “cover” you clever fox, but it’s not - and you sound like a fool for believing it. Until Tim Cook or Phil Schiller or someone else at the company goes on record stating “XYZ will be announced”, none of what you report is fact. Nothing is concrete. Rumors are rumors and to report anything else is irresponsible twaddle.
6. A product is not delayed until it is announced.
Any rumored product or service, regardless of how often it is discussed, is not officially delayed until it has been announced.
6a. Any product that does not appear at the next presentation is also not “delayed”.
This is a lame cop-out technique from journalists unwilling to admit they were wrong in their rumor mongering and should be avoided.
7. Ignore Digitimes.
Digitimes is not, has never been, and will never be a source of accurate reporting on anything, so why are you still paying attention to it?
8. Technology is NOT a zero-sum game.
There is no “winner” in the smartphone market, nor the PC market, nor the tablet market. There are winners in chess matches, baseball games, and marching band competitions. There are shades of gray and enough room for 2-3 players in any industry to coexist comfortably. Writing link-bait articles about one company or platform “winning” over the other is stupid.
What has it won? Market share? Profits? The love of the nation’s children? Perhaps the British lottery? Leave the bullshit at the rodeo.
9. Sources must be plainly visible in all articles.
The Verge likes to hide its sources at the bottom of its articles. Other sites bury them in the body text, while others don’t embed them at all. This makes it difficult and even impossible sometimes to find the original piece an article is referencing.
The original source of an article must be clearly presented to the reader so as to provide context for the information. Unless, of course, the goal of the offending publication is to keep the reader on the current page and not venture outside the site. But who would do something like that?
This brings us to rule #10.
10. No more article rewrites.
It’s habit for large sites like Business Insider and the Huffington Post to take an original story from somewhere else and repurpose it for their own publications. What’s easier than actual journalism? Rewriting someone else’s work.
Unless there’s new information or a unique take on a story, leave the original piece where it is and provide a link.
11. Tynt and popover ads have gotta go.
It may be necessary for someone to copy and paste a quote from an article into a blog post or an email. The unnecessary part is what automatically appears underneath it:
Read more at http://whythehelldoesthiskeepappearingunderwhatIpaste.com
Also, popover ads in the body text of an article are user-hostile garbage and I’m certain nobody ever clicks on them unless it’s by accident.
Both of these services need to be removed from all offending sites posthaste.
12. Readability matters.
We get it. That new layout with its titanic banner image, sporadic pull-quotes, and CSS3 animations is totally killer because people love giant images and text thrown haphazardly into an article they’re reading. They also love the exhilirating nausea that comes with giant page slide animations.
Except they don’t. They want to read your content. Stop making it more difficult for them. You know what would be unique and exciting for a reader on the Web? An article in a clearly readable font with minimal ads and appropriately-sized images that they can scroll through at their leisure. There just aren’t enough of those these days.
13. The Apple Store website being down before a keynote/product launch is NOT a story.
Knock it off.
14. FACT CHECK.
I know I’m asking a lot here, but if you’re going to post an op-ed about an operating system’s superiority, or if a story comes in and it’s important for people to know about, verify everything prior to clicking “Publish”.
“First!” is not more important than “Right!” Who cares if you beat everyone else to the story if you have to retract it 20 minutes later?
15. Ask yourself, “Does our site violate the majority of these ‘rules’?”
If the answer is “Yes,” then ask yourself if you’re doing what’s best for your readers.