I don’t remember what cable channel it was on, but I was so happy to find a future-tech-oriented TV show one day many, many years ago and soon came to appreciate and look for the giant red C/NET logo. That was before Tech-TV, which has come and gone, and before podcasting. These days, I continue to listen to C/NET’s flagship podcast, Buzz Out Loud, not because I’m looking for tech-journalism but because I’m want to know what the haters are thinking about when Apple is in the news.
Anchored by two very smart and funny tech-observers, Molly Wood and Brian Tong, the once daily podcast seems to have fallen victim to the talk-show radio syndrome where news stories have become launching points for venom and hyperbole. Back when Tom Merritt was part of the crew the balance between news reporting, analysis and rants was well managed, entertaining and worth listening to/watching. The revolving third seat, since Merritt’s departure, has been manned by good people, but all seem to be either too quick to go into rant mode or no one can be found who is strong enough a personality to maintain the news/analysis/rant balance. I’m sure that there are probably constructive reasons for the change, but the reduction of the podcast from daily to weekly isn’t a good sign. And for me, with the rant-a-thon, I can hardly make it through even the weekly sessions.
Case in point, news item: Apple’s Siri voice-service is under scrutiny over it’s apparent aversion to giving info when asked for assistance looking for birth-control. Siri doesn’t seem to have any problem giving assistance when asked for where one can score pot or how to dispose of a body. The latter example, obviously meant to be humorous while the former… well, have you read the Steve Jobs biography? Molly Wood goes into rant mode about Apple’s obvious nanny-mode control issues. Apple had previously responded that it wasn’t a political statement and that, after all, the service is still in Beta. One of Wood’s co-hosts offered that it could have also been a CYA thing, with Apple not wanting to be sued in the future when someone under-age uses Siri to get info and then gets an abortion. Wood wouldn’t have it and called Apple “Beta” explanation bull[shit], and continued the rant. I shut off the podcast and deleted the episode.
What it comes down to is that there’s no one there to pull back on the rants and maintain even the illusion of journalistic balance. It was a little understandable when they were under the pressure of doing a daily tech-news show that they would riff on the headlines and not spend too much time to dig deeper into the stories. And given the ongoing nature of most of the stories and the incomplete record of the events, one does need the analysis. Problem was and is, especially when dealing with anything Apple or Steve Jobs, Wood and Brian Tong always assumed the worst, most controlling, evil motives. To their credit they’ve earned their skepticism over Apple’s motives. Wood has seen how Apple marketing has been savage in their pandering and mistreatment of the press and Tong worked for Apple in the early years of the Apple Stores (which I guess qualifies one for … wounds). Alas, having been poorly treated by individuals or organizations… well, if one is going to be a journalist one needs to rise above it. Where’s the objectivity when one automatically goes for the “evil” reason. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t be skeptical and just buy the marketing fluff, but there is a middle ground that C/NET and Buzz Out Loud seem to have lost a long time ago.
- Buzz Out Loud 1568: That’s just the Google Maps guy, ignore him. http://www.cnet.com/8301-19709_1-57334959-10/buzz-out-loud-1568-thats-just-the-google-maps-guy-ignore-him-podcast/ retrieved 12-30-2011.
- Petition To Correct Siri’s Apparent Anti-Abortion Bias Collects Nearly 30,000 Signatures by Laura Bassett/Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/01/siri-abortion-petition_n_1124281.html retrieved 12/30/2011.