Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 25/10/2004Tech journalism might seem like a riotous festival of bacchanalia lightly seasoned with acts of gross irresponsibility, but the truth is - we have standards. No, honestly.

Monday 25/10/2004
Tech journalism might seem like a riotous festival of bacchanalia lightly seasoned with acts of gross irresponsibility, but the truth is - we have standards. No, honestly. We have at least two.

One is not to mix the ads and the stories up so you can't tell one from the other, because then you might think we're advertising salesmen. We'd rather be thought of as those strange people who film high-heel-wearing women stepping on insects.

The other is not to mix up news and comment, because then you wouldn't be able to tell what we find out and what we make up. We're just about on top of that ourselves, but we need all the help we can get.

Nevertheless, all journos have opinions about the stuff they write. That's necessary - otherwise how would we ever spot a story - but it's important to let the facts speak for themselves. One of the best ways is to find someone saying something that looks a bit strange and then find someone else with a degree of integrity who'll say something to put it into context.

You know the sort of thing: Bill Gates says "Microsoft will build super-intelligent holy robots that will mix the perfect martini and not run off with your daughters." Your average hack will look at that and say "Good heavens, what nonsense. But it's news" - and then phone up the Vatican to get a comment along the lines of "All robots are sinful creatures who will most certainly seduce your offspring, and they never chill the glasses properly." Thus, the journalist has a story with balance - or, if you prefer, one that matches his picture of the world. Tricky chap, Mr Objectivity.

Today provides us with an object lesson in this approach. Bruce Sterling, noted novelist, essayist and commentator on matters cyber, fell upon a story written by our own Graeme 'Scoop' Wearden, in the approved fashion. The story itself is a good 'un, with an RFID proponent loftily dismissing privacy issues as being a lack of understanding on the part of the consumers, while a privacy group he dismisses takes the RFID man to task for being a sinister bunny. Sterling's deconstruction of it on his Wired blog takes it to a new level, rattling out machine-gun apercus through the interstices of the story.

It's very amusing, spot-on perceptive and if you might suspect that this X-ray diffraction technique reveals something of the inner workings of a tech journalist's psyche then I'd be hard pushed to argue with you.