The sound and fury about AllThingsD conflicts of interest

The sound and fury about AllThingsD conflicts of interest

Summary: Shakespeare is always relevant.

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TOPICS: Amazon
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It's strange to read Michael Wolff in USA Today describing AllthingsD publisher Kara Swisher as a "feared player" in Silicon Valley and that Rupert Murdoch once called her "crazy scary."Wolff: Tech journalist Kara Swisher is a feared player

I've known Kara Swisher for many years, back when I was at the Financial Times and she was "Boomtown" columnist at the Wall Street Journal. She's a tenacious and persistent journalist and those are also key characteristics of her success at building AllThingsD into a solid news platform.

She's also done a great job in hiring reporters with similar qualities of tenacity and persistence and it has given AllThingsD a good reputation for accuracy and quality.

In a long article that desperately searches for something meaningful to say about today's new media, and something nasty to pin on Ms. Swisher, Mr. Wolff struggles and fails to Google much of anything about her that's not known, or that deserves new attention.

He brings up her same sex marriage and the disclosure that her spouse works at Google. I agree with him that disclosures, which other news sites such as Pando Daily and TechCrunch have disclosed about conflicts of interests —doesn't resolve them —in this case there's nothing much to say but Mr. Wolff still manages to write a lot of indignant sentences.

Reading his piece I can see why one of Mr. Wolff's critics described him as, "Intelligent enough to be an actual, serious media critic, he's also canny enough to know that few people give a shit about serious media criticism."

I have a private description of Mr. Wolff that's best not shared.

He's lazy in his attacks. For example, he accuses Ms. Swisher of a "new kind of journalism career … from the days before conflicts had to be identified."

He must be thinking of some other prominent online publishers.  She has constantly identified the single conflict of interest she has, and does it again, and again. Yet she is accused of "ever-shifting and complex alliances and her own political power, as well as her ability to rough you up if you oppose her."

She's tiny, she couldn't rough up a flaky pastry hot from the oven. Yes, she is combative, and fiercely loyal to her brand and her team, which are all great qualities. But what "political power?"

She doesn't invest in startups like the other lot, or take investments from the power players in Silicon Valley. She's one of the most ethical publishers of all the new news media sites, (GigaOm is similar), and it's because she's from the old media, where ethics are important and continue to be important.

What's puzzling is why Mr. Wolff has published a hatchet job on Ms. Swisher, and the timing of it?

She is trying to decide to stay on with AllThingsD or start a new news and conference venture. Is he trying to discredit her with potential backers? What's in it for him? 

At times like these these words come to mind: "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." (Macbeth Act V, Scene V).

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Please see: AllThingsD At Crossroads - Founding Team Wants Buyout From Dow Jones

Also: Michael Wolff (journalist) - Wikipedia

Topic: Amazon

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  • Google embedded reporting

    Wolff has a point about the conflict of interests and systemic pro-Google bias in tech reporting, but this is by no means the preeminent example!
    Tim Acheson