The Kernel is delighted to see more quality technology journalism projects. Together, we can overthrow the incumbent purveyors of drivel and deliver compelling content to a public desperate for more good writing.
I notice that Bobbie Johnson, a journalist I admire, and Jim Giles, whose name is new to me, are starting a new quality technology publication called Matter. Their aim is to publish one high-quality piece of journalism a week. As the publisher of a quality technology magazine, you might imagine that my first reaction would be concern at the competition, but in truth my heart sang as I read the project’s brief on Kickstarter.
Late last year, I wrote angrily on my personal blog about the state of tech journalism in Europe. Five weeks later, we flipped the switch on The Kernel, unsure what the site would become but confident in our belief that readers demanded and deserved better, and in our intention to provide clever and amusing content.
Though Matter is based on the West Coast and will no doubt skew heavily in that direction in contributors and audience, it’s gratifying to see other journalists join the call we put out last year for greater quality in technology coverage and we hope that its impact will be felt widely. The Kernel will continue to keep an eye on the people, places, businesses and events in Europe we feel are currently neglected.
This is an exciting time to be a quality tech journalist, and a commercially troubling one for the illiterate amateurs, press release rewriters and bone-headed incompetents that have plagued our industry for so long. Just as the supposed revolution in “user-generated content” ended with a whimper as consumers returned to the great television and music they knew and loved, so the tide in written content is turning dramatically in favour of thoughtful, well-crafted work.
Perhaps because I started my career in journalism at a national newspaper, I don’t agree with everything that Bobbie and Jim write in their pitch. Specifically, I think there’s a place for humour in good writing. Readers want to be provoked, whether that’s with incisive commentary or unpredictable opinions. But they also want to be entertained. The best journalists – the ones you talk about and recommend – are the ones who make you think and laugh.
Reading between the lines, I do worry slightly that any focus on the “environment” is likely to become worthy – not for nothing a byword for “dull” – and unreadable. But then, we are talking about San Francisco, I suppose. Finally, I think the idea of a crowd-funded editorial board is simply bonkers. The most successful editorial products have strong, tight leadership: they are not democracies.
But the above reservations notwithstanding, I can’t wait to read what Bobbie and Jim come up with. We need more of this kind of quality publication, more experimentation with new business models and more, I suppose, “re-education” of readers. Occasionally the public needs to be reminded that they deserve better, and that better is available.
Quality journalism is precious and, unfortunately, expensive. But we believe readers are ready to put their hands in their pockets in order to be enlightened and entertained. Let’s smash the hegemony of worthless trash in technology journalism together. We heartily welcome this latest addition to the marketplace.