Friday, October 19, 2012

RIM vs. New York Times vs. journalistic integrity

The New York Times kicked off quite the ruckus this week with its article, The BlackBerry as Black Sheep. The piece essentially described these smartphones as being so behind the times that people who own them are ashamed to carry them.

The journalist in me cringed when I read it, as it represented just the kind of drive-by, shallow journalism that tabloids were once known for. Essentially, come up with a provocative topic/treatment, find a narrow band of sources to support your thesis, write it up in a cheeky tone, publish, watch the sparks fly.

That there's no sense of balance, depth or even a need to inform seems to get lost in the process. The context of the story is virtually ignored in the rush to sensationalize. All that matters is jacking readership stats to drive advertising. The Times, once a bastion of journalistic integrity, scored big with a piece of link bait. I don't begrudge them for trying to goose readership. In and of itself, this is a necessary process to ensure the medium's survival. But not at the cost of your soul.

However you feel about RIM or its products - disclosure, I own a BlackBerry Bold 9900, as well as loads of other devices with Apple and Microsoft logos all over them - I feel it's disingenuous to leave your journalistic ethics at the door and write something so deliberately inflammatory. It shames us all, the folks who pick up pens for a living and string words together. We all end up looking like hacks.

To his credit, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins fought back with a perspective of his own: The Maker of BlackBerry Defends Its Smartphone. I discussed this on-air last night on NewsTalk 1010's Friendly Fire with John Downs and Ryan Doyle. My thesis:
  • Folks who define themselves solely by the technology they carry really need to get a life.
  • If a client is going to drop you because you carry a certain piece of technology, find another client.
  • Technology is not "good" or "bad". Its success depends on how well it aligns to your particular needs. If a BlackBerry continues to meet your needs, then no article in the New York Times can change that. For all its iOS-driven wonder, the iPhone isn't ideal for everyone, either. Different strokes.
Your turn: Thoughts?

20 comments:

@shebmiller said...

You sir, wrote out the words in my mind and I thank you. Perfect post.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more completely via BlackBerry Torch 9810 $RIMM

Anonymous said...

The new york times - a newspaper that literate people are ashamed to be seen reading.

Anonymous said...

well done.
+10

gagecastillo said...

My hats off to your post, very well thought out!

gagecastillo said...

My hat is off to you, a very well thought out post!

Arjun said...

Well, that piece in the Times (to me) spoke to the depths to which the brand has sunk more than anything. And given the sycophantic treatment the Canadian media (for the most part) has treated BB over the years, if not the absolute fawning, BB getting its back up over a little negative article, fair or unfair, is disingenuous.

Mark PPG said...

#church. #preach.

Anonymous said...

I love how well this article is written putting this whole situation into proper perspective. Thank you for posting this. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Toys vs tools. Kids vs adults.

Carmi Levy said...

Thanks everyone. Appreciate the support.

Arjun: I'm guessing you don't read much of my work. Or any. I've yet to meet any of those sycophantic Canadian journos you speak of. If you bump into any of them on your travels, please send them my way and I'll do my best to get them to see the light. Or maybe you can. Whatever.

Secondly, I think you missed my point. The issue isn't whether RIM is getting what it deserves. I've already exhausted that thread, frankly. My difficulty with this piece is the fact that it ignores virtually every fundamental rule of journalism that's been drilled into me - and everyone I've worked with - since I first picked up a pen. It sullies the craft.

I could care less whether it supports or opposes a given perspective. It's not a "little negative article." It's a sign that the one-time standard of a profession may very well have some serious quality control issues.

warcraftlife said...

I think it's a cute rant, but isn't supported by any data. I think the New York Times has more backbone than this.

warcraftlife said...

I think it's a cute rant, but isn't supported by any data. I think the New York Times has more backbone than this.

Adam Schuetze said...

Have you tried submitting this to the NY Times? They should print this. Not that they will.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Well done.

Catherine said...

I don't have a smartphone at all - just an ordinary unsmart mobile phone, which serves my needs just fine - the ability to make a call or send a text message in an emergency.
Everything else is done on my desktop computer.

Anonymous said...

Your article shows good journalism still exists (enjoyed reading it). I used to have great respect for NYT, however, the past few negative headlines about NYT and especially this last one really nailed the coffin.

Anonymous said...

NYT didn't ask me how much I like my Blackberry, and how proud I am to carry one.

Anonymous said...

Well written, i love my BB 9900 it does everything so efficiently. The New York Times should hide inshame of such bad journalism..

Anonymous said...

New York Times lost credibility years ago when it permitted Jayson Blair to plagirise much of his work.