Ethics in tech “journalism”

What are the ethical obligations of tech journalist to disclose when they’ve signed NDAs when talking about various subjects? Windows Central is the worst, but most are not much better.

·        “leaked”

·        “According to industry insiders…”

·        “My sources are saying…”

·        “I’m hearing rumors that…”

·        “This is just speculation, but…”

·        “We’ve ‘discovered’ the latest patent filings”

·        “I’ve heard whispers that…”

·        “Code has been found that suggests…”

·        “What I would love to see is…”

·        “We’re only guessing here, but…”

·        “What they should do is…”

This is B.S.

I know everybody needs to make a buck, but carrying water for a tech company and acting as a propagandist to guide the narrative is shameful. “Access Journalism” in the form of pre-release products and information (talking points) in exchange for signing an NDA.

Should a real tech journalist ever sign an NDA? Or, at least, disclose it?

Conversation 5 comments

  • skane2600

    06 August, 2019 - 2:10 pm

    <p>Nothing you describe sounds like a serious ethical problem. Now if someone is actually paid to give a good review, that's different. </p>

  • lvthunder

    Premium Member
    06 August, 2019 - 2:54 pm

    <p>I think you are confusing two things. Most of those quotes mean someone told them something outside of a NDA. Now if the person the journalist is using is breaking an NDA is another matter. NDA's are appropriate to give reviewers time to prepare their articles in advance. I would prefer a well thought out article instead of one rushed together after an announcement.</p>

  • Daekar

    06 August, 2019 - 3:06 pm

    <p>Generally tech reporting is fairly ethical – they're good people, overall, like most everybody else, and they want the best for themselves and everyone else. That's not the problem.</p><p><br></p><p> The problem is that the quality of the material is extremely low. There is usually little analysis beyond the rudimentary, and frequently the analysis is wrong regardless of how in-depth it is. Many tech journalists are the opposite of Paul and Mary-Jo, and instead of decades of focused experience in a specific part of the market with relationships that help them get insight into the way the wind is blowing, they're just technically inclined folks who can rub commas together slightly better than the average STEM graduate who isn't already employed doing STEM work. They don't know anything about people, history, politics beyond the outrage of the week, or the world outside their own little bubble, and it causes problems when they try to expand outside benchmarks and spec sheets.</p><p><br></p><p>The 24-hour news cycle and brutal competition involved in trying to extract income from creating something whose value is already approaching zero at the moment it's created doesn't help. Most technology writers are not (and cannot be) differentiated from their peers in such a way that they can command value enough to push for quality over quantity, and many readers can't tell the difference between facts and opinions. This all combines to result in masses of low-quality work created to fill a spot on somebody's Facebook feed or homepage.</p>

  • Chris_Kez

    Premium Member
    06 August, 2019 - 5:19 pm

    <p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">NDA's represent an </span><em style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">official </em><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">and sanctioned transfer of property or information. In that case the journalist is specifically barred from divulging what they have seen or learned, perhaps for a specified period of time; they typically can't even say that they are under an NDA. On the other hand, most of the e</span>xample lines above sound like someone talking about information they have received <em>unofficially</em>, maybe even through anonymous sources. Journalists are generally obliged to protect their sources rather than divulge them. Should they accept this type of information? Absolutely. The best ones will look for confirmation from multiple sources and will do their best to balance the interest of their readers with the interest of their sources (every source has a motive!). </p><p>Apple is sometimes accused of strategically leaking information to trusted outlets in order to guide the conversation (e.g. if they're planning a software/services-only announcement they could backdoor that to someplace like the WSJ to protect against a backlash of disappointment when there is no new hardware). But there are also rumors of people on Wall Street feeding negative stories to outlets so they can short Apple stock. </p><p><br></p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    07 August, 2019 - 6:29 am

    <p>NDA is NDA, you can't talk about what you know until it expires (if ever).</p><p>Being a shill for a company is very different.</p><p>You seem to be mixing NDA, loander products/services for testing and being a shill for a company.</p><p>Leaks and rumours, not coming from you and not covered by your NDA is a leak/rumour. That has always been the case, long before IT was even a twinkle in Babbage's eye. There is obviously a big difference between "professional" press, which doesn't tend to comment on rumours and tattle sheets.</p><p>A professional journalist confirms their sources information before publishing and gets it cleared by legal. But most small blogs and most online sites probably don't even have a legal department to clear their article with.</p><p>In the end, do you read the Telegraph/Financial Time/FAZ etc. or do you read The Sun/Das Bild etc.? The same is true of tech reporting, there are serious sites and there are less serious sites. You just have to know what you are dealing with and colour your opinion accordingly.</p>


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