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Tech journalist will be the most demanded profession in 2014

14 December 2013 / 00:12:59  GRReporter
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The dark side of tech media

I have previously mentioned that the journalists and the media that cover tech news have the power of influencing the interests of consumers and, respectively, the sales of the products they write about.

The companies producing tech gadgets clearly understand this, which makes the relationship between them and journalists, let us say... interesting.

Did you know that Apple maintains a media "black list," a list of journalists who are "shunned", "ignored" and punished for being disloyal to the brand? The journalists and media on the "black list" do not have access to information, products and events of the American giant.

"Once you are on the list it is almost impossible to get off it (I have been on it for more than a decade)," writes Mike Elgan from 9to5Mac. Note that 9to5Mac is a media that covers mainly Apple products and events.

Elgan writes in a lengthy article about how the black list "works" and why.

Some articles about Apple are related to human rights and environmental issues, things that people want to know. The easiest way to be blacklisted by the company is by writing about any of these topical issues, as stated by Elgan.

In the majority of the cases, one enters this list through a combination of criticism, cynicism or by covering specific topics and breaking specific rules, including the ban on live streaming at some of the company events. Criticizing Steve Jobs or Apple’s history, culture and products will ensure lifelong inclusion on the list. Being speculative or writing with too much certainty about Apple rumours is not recommended either. Apple is much crueler to tech media because they influence the mainstream media that are more easily controlled.

How does Apple punish the media groups? It just rewards their competitors. The same thing happened when The New York Times published a series of reports, revealing the working conditions in the factories producing their products. Apple responded to this by allowing The Wall Street Journal to conduct an exclusive interview with company's CEO Tim Cook.

Another way to deal with the problem is by constantly giving early access to products to all pro-Apple journalists. The worst consequence of the blacklisting by Apple is that it is leading to self-censorship among the not so popular bloggers, writers and editors. If a young person wants to have a career in tech journalism and to take advantage of greater access to information from Apple, it would be better for this person to write mainly positive articles about Apple and to avoid writing negative ones. Greater access brings good news and this paves the way for a better career.

The difference between "black" and "white" journalism is small. Those who have been blacklisted can read the publications by those who enjoy Apple’s approval. "Of course, we do not receive test products and exclusive interviews from the bosses, but we still read the same information," says Elgan. It is important to note that the majority of the journalists on the "white list" are not actually corrupt or unethical. Most of them just like writing positive things about Apple or they simply have not had an occasion to criticize the company, which does not mean that they are lying, as a strategy, or that they are resorting to self-censorship.

Similar is the situation with Microsoft, which has folders containing information about the interests, priorities and preferences of some journalists. Journalists say that the company is often aware of their preferences in terms of reviews and invites them to write reviews in compliance with them.

According to Elgan, Google is an exception. "If you criticize Apple harshly, the company will never reply to your e-mails for the rest of your career. But if you criticize Google harshly, and request a Nexus 5 review unit the next day, they will cheerfully overnight it to you like you never said anything."

Is it interesting to follow and cover new technologies? The answer for me is only positive. Every morning I look through the innovations that my favourite online tech editions have collected and published. As you can see, often it is not easy. And bearing in mind the increasing influence that technology has on every sphere of our lives, the role of the media that present the world of technology will continue to grow.

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