Microsoft blogs, journalism, and anonymity

I've just been the victim of some anonymous drive-by journalism from PC Magazine, and it's left a bad taste in my mouth.

My post "XP SP2 RTMs!" is getting a lot of traffic, thanks to an article that PC Magazine published yesterday called "WinXP SP2 Auto Updates Available Now—For Some" (this article has also been syndicated via Ziff Davis to Extreme Tech and Yahoo News). The article is kind of amusing, since it makes a big deal about how Microsoft hasn't said exactly when automatic updates will reach our customers, but that the heroic and intrepid journalist has found "indications from ... a Microsoft developer's blog" to pass on to their breathless readers. The blog they link to is mine, natch. Sadly, the journalist didn't bother following the link to Michael Swanson's blog, where the information actually came from. If they'd done that, they might have had to quote the bit where he said this was "from a customer-ready email".

Now, they could have started from my blog post and written a thoughtful article about bandwidth, and petabits, and download throttling, and how this all means that we literally cannot say exactly when automatic updates will reach any particular customer. But that might not be controversial enough for them - and controversy is what generates readers and hence ad traffic (hey Scoble, why isn't this observation in your Corporate Weblog Manifesto?). To create a controversial news article from the SP2 dates they needed two things:

  • A Microsoft blog that posts the dates without the "from a customer-ready email" quote (me)

  • A Microsoft spokesperson to refuse comment (OHMYGODITSACONSPIRACY)

Voila! Instant "scoop", and lots of readers for them.

But the bit that really leaves a nasty taste in my mouth is that the whole article is anonymous. No journalist's name, no email link, no editor's address to send a quick "hey, do you ever bother with fact-checking?" note to, nothing. So I'm inviting whoever wrote that article to step right up and explain their methods and intentions in doing so.

In the meantime, I'm going to go read the online version of Dan Gillmor's latest book "We The Media" about the colliding futures of journalism and blogging. Recommended.

Comments (5)

  1. Steve K. says:

    You’d think after the "BOA incident", journalists would be more careful.

  2. Heh – I’d already forgotten that one! I’ve posted to the PC Magazine discussion forums (their only form of feedback) and invited the author of the article to comment here, so we’ll see what happens…

  3. John Dowdell says:

    <em>"But the bit that really leaves a nasty taste in my mouth is that the whole article is anonymous. No journalist’s name, no email link, no editor’s address to send a quick ‘hey, do you ever bother with fact-checking?’ note to, nothing."</em>

    Yup, it’s hard when a company takes advantage of informal discussion, but doesn’t participate in informal discussion itself. They’ve got eyeballs, because of the length of their tenure, but they can’t readily incorporate additional info at weblike speeds.

    Newspapers without trackbacks… gosh, how 2004…. 😉


  4. Greg Hughes says:

    Even funnier/worse is the fact that by the time they wrote and published the article, Microsoft *had* formerly commented and released a schedule remarkably similar to the email that Michael S had posted:

    Granted, it’s in a non-descript location, but hey… Even I found it. 😉

  5. Thanks Greg, that’s a good find – but when these guys are apparently unable to click on a simple link, how are they ever going to beat your l33t search engine skillz?? 🙂

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