The New York Times, USA Today, CBS News’s Dan Rather, and other mainstream media outlets have taken negative hits for poor journalistic practices in recent years.
Today, it’s Newsweek’s turn and time to bring out the Mac360 First Annual ‘Journalist as Boob’ Award. Are you sitting down?
Over the past few weeks I’ve been catching up on my reading. Much has happened in the world of Apple and Macs in just a few months of absence.
One thing that’s not new and just keeps repeating itself like a broken record (see how old I am?) is the shoddy and weak thought processes that go in to journalism these days.
My case in point today is the highly acclaimed writer for Newsweek/MSNBC, Steven Levy. He gets the nod for our First Annual ‘Journalist as Boob’ Award for his latest attempt at writing, “Our ‘Can’t We All Just Get Along?’ Awards”.
Why do Americans not trust politicians? Probably because we only know of politicians by what we read in the media, and the media don’t generate much trust of their own these days.
Steve Levy, writing in MSNBC/Newsweek International, created his own personal “This Won’t Work With That” awards, blasting away at technology that isn’t, at least in his view, compatible with other technology.
For example, Levy pokes at satellite radio services Sirius and XM for not being ‘compatible’ with each other. If you like Bob Edwards on XM and Howard Stern on Sirius, you’re out of luck because ‘this won’t work with that.’ You have to subscribe to both to get each.
Levy’s initial example of good technology is the DVD. Buy a DVD and it plays wherever DVDs play. PC, Mac, DVD Player. Then he blasts the upcoming ‘standards’ of Blu-Ray DVD vs HD-DVD because each will be incompatible with the other.
Levy’s obviously never heard of DVD regions.
Of course, he also neglects to tell you that neither is a ‘standard’ yet, or that players may actually play current DVDs, Blu-Ray DVDs, AND HD-DVDs, should neither of the latter win. There’s also no mention of the restrictive Digital Rights Management issues with either.
His grand prize goes to America Online for “shamefully maintaining AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) as a closed system.” Since when was AOL ever an ‘open system?’
Levy complains (something journalist do quite often but always under the guise of ‘journalism’) that AOL users can’t swap messages with Yahoo or Microsoft IM systems. Duh.
This kind of journalism is laughable at best, and dangerous at worst. Laughable because the argumentation is weak and easily exploited. Dangerous, because people may start expecting that which has not, cannot, and will not happen. Ever.
Where is Levy’s complaint that Sony PSP DVDs don’t work with XBox360? Where is his complaint about the dozens of applications that don’t work on anything but Windows?
Where is his complaint that he can’t use a PowerPC processor to run Windows? Why do I have to buy an HP printer cartridge only for an HP printer? Why doesn’t it work with my Epson printer.
Adding fuel to the flame, and going from worse to worst, Levy blasts Apple as part of the ‘self-serving perpetrators of toxic incompatibilities.’ What a great phrase. What a wonderfully utopian thought. Everything should be compatible.
The problem is, it’s not. It won’t be. Only the strongest survive, prosper, and create the ‘standards’ we use. And most ‘standards’ are not universal. Electricity is not the same in Europe as the US as Asia.
Levy goes on in his so-called journalist rant to rake Apple over the coals for selling songs on the iTunes Music Store that only play on iPods, then accuses Apple of rigging the iPod so it won’t play songs from other online stores.
Levy’s choice, but wholly illogical, quote is, “Take my word for it, Steve—when people pay for music, they want it to be playable on any device they choose.”
This is critical thinking? This is timely analysis? OK, Mister Levy, why doesn’t Microsoft’s ‘Play for Sure’ play on an iPod? Why can’t Mac or Linux users buy from Microsoft’s online music store?
Why can’t Microsoft’s Windows Media Player play my QuickTime movies? The ‘why’ should be obvious to a journalist with so many awards, most of which are handed out by other journalists, thereby perpetuating the species. Newsweek calls him a ‘talented and respected author’ and ‘one of the most respected technology writers in the country.’
Then why doesn’t he understand ‘standards?’ I do. Why does he have difficulty dealing with what the rest of us deal with quite well? The incompatibly of standards.
Why do people in the Blue States have to put up with legislation enacted by people from the Red States?
To be fair to Levy’s premise that it would be great if we could all just get along, and every form of technology would play nice everywhere, it’s a nice, utopian sort of consideration, wholly akin to left-wing Communist thinking that had a billion Chinese people all wearing red and olive drab for a few decades.
If everything worked perfectly well with everything else, if my Lexus engine could easily be plunked into a VW Beetle, there would never be a need for change, let alone an opportunity to change a ‘standard.’
Levy should know, but his awards are piled too high for him to see, the obvious—nothing improves without change. Full and complete interoperability between technologies does not beget the future, because the future requires change, improvement, and Levy’s utopian view of ‘standards’ would not allow for that.
Am I miffed that an AAC Fairplay song from iTMS won’t play on the Windows Media Player? Or, that a Windows Music Store song won’t play on my iPod without jumping through hoops?
Yes. But not so much that it even matters in the least, because I have choices within those differences. Getting everything to work together in that Levy-esque utopian world would mean Windows Everywhere™.
For me, I’ve decided that a little choice is a good thing. May the best choices win. Right now, Apple’s winning the choice wars with iTunes, iPod, iTunes Music Store, and they all play well together with Mac and Windows, about 98-percent of the computing world, and the market is recognizing that choice with an 80-percent market share for Apple.
When you have so many awards sitting on your desk that you can’t see what’s really going on already, then one more award won’t hurt, will it?
Steven Levy, you’re the first recipient of Mac360’s First Annual ‘Journalist as Boob’ Award. Congratulations.
Standards are not universal, they never have been, they never will be. Why? Because change is needed for improvement. Journalism that plays on fears and distorts reality for a few extra hits to a web site is not journalism.
Barbara Marie Hambi
Welcome back, Tera. While it’s a pain sometimes to deal with incompatibilities, I know it’s required to raise the stakes and improve the process for future products. I can live with it. Levy doesn’t want to.
I thought Levy made sense, until I realized that if everything simply ‘got along’ with everything else, then there probably wouldn’t be any improvements, certainly not the number of improvements we’re seeing in technology today.
Tera, you’re wrong. Levy’s right. How come all these things can’t just play well together? DVD, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, and so on. Messy.
Carol Mary Miller
Need three or four opinions on a topic? Ask a woman. Welcome back, Tera. We missed you.