Mike Daisey: Perhaps tech writers ‘aren’t actually journalists either?’

May 31, 2012
Category: Uncategorized

Mike Daisey | KQED | The New York Times | AllThingsD
Mike Daisey, back with more media criticism, casts a steely eye at AllThingsD’s D10 (or is that DX?) conference, currently teching it up in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Daisey thought AllThingsD’s co-executive editors Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg fumbled a chance to ask Apple CEO Tim Cook tough questions:

Kara and Walt—do you really think you asked hard questions tonight? Goodness, you got Cook to admit…that Ping was a failure! That’s amazing. If only you had another hour, so you could get him to tell us who he liked best on Dawson’s Creek and what kind of ice cream is best: vanilla or cookies and cream.

While giving great play to his own failings vis-a-vis factual reporting, Daisey turns his fire on tech writers.

Perhaps instead they are “journalists”, in quotes, as almost every writer for technology outlets must feel like: hemmed between the corporations who make the devices, the PR teams, and all the forces that exist in our marketplace. Maybe they arrive at a place where they have an outlandish conference that feels like an industry kissing party because that’s precisely what it is.

A Twitter spat, inevitably, followed, and here is the the inevitable Storify document.

Noam Cohen calls the match for Swisher and Mossberg: “But his past gave Mr. Mossberg and Ms. Swisher all the ammunition they needed. Mr. Mossberg’s reaction, via Twitter: ‘Hmm…being attacked by an admitted liar is sort of a badge of honor.’ ”

Full points for the Twitter smackdown, but I don’t think that’s really the best medium if we’re going to delve into Daisey’s assertion that Mossberg and Swisher let Cook off easy. The only way to find out whether that’s true is to read an account of the event — and All Things D’s shows a rangy sitdown with questions any Apple fan would want answered, whether the company’s making a TV for instance, and if it’ll ever integrate its products with Facebook. Manufacturing gets two questions, a fairly expansive bit of conference real estate.

As for China, Cook notes that Apple has been working to reduce overtime. That, he says, is tricky.

“Some people want to work a lot. They want to move and work for a year or two, and then move back to their village and bring back as much money as they can.”

Apple, he says, now has 95 percent compliance, and is tracking 700,000 workers in China.

“I don’t know anyone else [that] is doing this,” Cook says. “We’re micromanaging this.”

I’d actually love to hear a follow-up to this question, because I don’t recall ever reading Tim Cook addressing a central point of Charles Duhigg and David Barboza’s deeply reported New York Times piece from January: Whether Chinese factories are responding to Apple’s demands for lower prices from their suppliers by treating their employees badly. From that piece:

“The only way you make money working for Apple is figuring out how to do things more efficiently or cheaper,” said an executive at one company that helped bring the iPad to market. “And then they’ll come back the next year, and force a 10 percent price cut.”

Were Swisher and Mossberg duty-bound to follow up on the reporting of others during Cook’s first big interview as Apple CEO? No. It sure would have been nice, though. Mike Daisey’s style may not exactly goad Swisher and Mossberg into not wasting future opportunities, but he’s got a point here.


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