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Tobak gets it wrong - You're not a bunch of sheep

CNET's Steven Tobak says that the media isn't biased. Instead, we just feed you content we know you'll click on, and any media bias is your fault. There's something severely wrong with this argument.

A funny thing happens when you work for "The Media." You get called all sorts of stuff by people who disagree with you. One moment you're a _______ shill, the next you're a ______ basher. Fill in the the blanks however you want: Microsoft, Linux, Apple, Dell, IBM, HP, Hillary, Obama, McCain. You get the picture.

It also doesn't matter how objective you are either. By merely stating something good or bad about a given technology, you're instantly labeled as "biased." This impression of bias extends to the entire media industry.

Now clearly, some individuals do have their own biases about certain solutions and technologies. For example, you couldn't make Jack Wallen deploy a Windows solution if you put a gun to his head. However, I'm sorry to announce that there's no vast conspiracy to push one technology over another.

If I'm biased, it's your fault.

What I found rather appalling today was an item posted on TechRepublic's sister site CNET.Com in Steve Tobak's Train Wreck blog. In it, he attempts to say that there is vast media conspiracy, but not the kind you're thinking. Not only that, if there's any bias it's in the mind of - and the fault of - the reader:

...if bloggers perceive that they'll get eyeballs by dragging Dell through the mud while hoisting Apple on the highest pedestal they can find, well, that's just what they'll do.

And if that bugs you, well, you only have yourself - actually your eyeballs - to blame.

He basically states that as an industry, our only concern is for the almighty page view and not to provide a service to the reader. We're not biased. You're all a bunch of sheep. You're being played. We've figured out how to make you click on our content and pull your strings to do our bidding. Muahahaha!

Call it a Dirty little secret of IT publishing.

If only. Were that the case, Jason, Bill, Toni, and the rest of us at TechRepublic would purchase some small Caribbean island and retire.

Adding insult to injury

To compound his errors and further insult the intelligence of the readership, he states that these games we play in the name of the Click are damaging to the companies we talk about:

As for Dell, it only has to worry about the perception of its customers and shareholders. But what if its customers and shareholders are also influenced by the media? Uh-oh.

Basically the point is, not only are you so dumb to click what we tell you to click, you'll also base your buying decisions on whatever we tell you to.

Let's be clear, Dell has taken a downward spiral because they started shipping machines with unending problems. There's no "perception" of bad customer support at HP. It actually exists. Check any post in the forums and you'll see a running theme of these problems and concerns by TechRepublic members who use and fight problems with these technologies on a regular basis.

Tobak insinuates that we create a perception that has the potential to create reality. Instead, what we do is report the reality that we're perceiving.

Sometimes reality is reality, not just perception

So, to restate: There's no giggling going on in morning editorial meetings where we decide who we're going to pick on today to goose a couple extra page views. Each of us at TechRepublic brings our experiences to bear on the content we generate.

Not only that, but we know that you're not a group of mind-numbed robots. TechRepublic includes the largest IT community on the Internet. If and when our experiences and expertise clash with your own, we know that you're more than willing to let us know. This is the power of the community that Tobak doesn't seem to get.

It would be an exercise in futility to try and create perceptions that weren't fact based. We can't dictate terms or spins because you have just as much power and intelligence as we do. Once we do that, our credibility is destroyed and you'll go elsewhere, costing us the gamed page views.

Sometimes as readers you have to parse every word someone types on a given technology or situation. When you find yourself having to do something like that, you know it's time to move on to another source. That's where perception becomes reality.

3 comments
sveldkamp
sveldkamp

Everyone is biased, and presents a bias in everything they do. It's because everyone is ultimately devoted to something/things: God, money, family, work, entertainment. And they can't avoid carrying that bias into situations where they wished they had 'plain facts', because they're very limited in the scope of the whole universe. The question shouldn't be "Am I presenting x with a bias?" but "Am I presenting x with a godly bias?" And that's a question every individual and organization has to answer for themselves.

MGP2
MGP2

[i]If only. Were that the case, Jason, Bill, Toni, and the rest of us at TechRepublic would purchase some small Caribbean island and retire.[/i] He never said you were GOOD at it. :-)

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

In Decision Central, I pointed out a blog entry by Steven Tobak where he states that the media isn't biased, but rather any bias is the result of the readers' own biases creating a feedback loop of content. http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/decisioncentral/?p=112 He blames any bias on the game that we play to get you to click content, rather than the reporting of facts. I don't think we can pull that off on TechRepublic. Although there my be individual biases, I don't think there's any 'Media Bias' one way or the other on TR. Maybe that's just my own Perception...

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