Old media coverage of cutting-edge toys is increasingly hapless. If you ever have trouble sleeping, just read the gadgets column in a lifestyle mag. The big newspapers' gadget blogs are phoned in, too: they want to beat techie sites like Engadget and Gizmodo, but they stick with a stuffy approach at odds with the enthusiast subject matter. This blurring of "blog" and "newspaper" also makes mistakes look like journalistic misrepresentations.
A great example of all this is at Digits, the WSJ tech blog. The Journal's Ben Charny writes about a dinner hosted by the people who run the Consumer Electronics Show. Slipped into a post so perfectly unexciting that it reads like an AP news item, Charny offers an amazing fact: "Apple plans to attend the show's 2010 version, marking the first time in memory the Cupertino, Calif., consumer-electronics giant will be there."
Wow! But there's a problem.Not only is there scant evidence this is the case, CEA president Gary Shapiro denied the rumor at the very event Charny attended. And there's no source, named or otherwise, for that claim.
Engadget's Ryan Block, who also attended, takes it down, hard. But while Block strikes each debunking note with excruciating precision, the way he did it was a missed opportunity. It's as if Block, far more popular and credible than his target, thought the reverse was true.
Responding to a one-line mistake with a big wall of text feeds the assumption that old newspapers are the ones with reputations to live up to, and that bloggers are better at reading than they are at reporting. But the truth is that blogs like Engadget, Gizmodo and the Crunches are coming close to supplanting traditional outlets entirely when it comes to technology news.
It's time for bloggers to stop chipping away at the credibility of fusty rivals, assume that they have no credibility advantage left at all, and simply get on with the job of out-writing them.
After all, responding to something at all grants it a measure of equality, and responding to it at greater length offers it primacy. This is why scientists are so leery of smacking down flat-earthers and the like: it gives them credibility they don't deserve. A better way to put a screw-up in its place it is to make fun of it, or give it a quick kick in the balls.
It's not just about technology reporting, either: online news will polish off its traditional counterparts by ignoring, rather than reacting to, their mistakes. Instead of attacking its credibility when it wanders into our yard, it's time for us to invade theirs--before they get a clue.