Journalists and bloggers should not be on judging panels at industry events, writes Milo Yiannopoulos.
A useful rule of thumb when dealing with tech bloggers runs as follows: the more hilariously grand their manner and diva-like their demands and behaviour, the more incompetent, stupid and unreliable they are likely to be. And therefore the more senior at their organisations. This tragic inverse proportionality injunction holds true at nearly every major technology blog.
Thus, conferences and start-ups tolerate the haphazard, unprofessional conduct of leading tech bloggers because they need to. And one of the most effective ways to massage a blogger’s ego is to whack them on a judging panel, which plays to the overweening pride and arrogance of people who leave sentences unfinished for a living. But this is one bit of back-scratching that ought to be quietly strangled.
For one thing, how can a journalist report on a process of which he is a part? Without the most torturous disclaimers, there’s no avoiding TechCrunch-esque “I’m conflicted; get over it” cop-outs that do a disservice to the profession to which tech bloggers pretend. Reporters can’t have it both ways: either they’re reporters, or they’re participants. The Silicon Valley approach of having one’s cake and eating it is both disreputable and unethical. We can do better.
After all, some tech bloggers already have conflicts that would make a newspaper editor blanch. Government committees, shares in business that provide services to start-ups they then write about… it’s astonishing, really. It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that where money or access is involved, journalists have no credibility if they are operating on both sides of the dividing line between scribe and subject. Let’s spare them from further blushes.
I have myself, as the most cursory meander through the internet is likely to surface, broken my own edict many times over the past few years. I’m making a commitment today to stop. I’ll only sit on panels where prizes - particularly money – are awarded when I have expertise in the area being judged. In practice, that probably means media businesses but little else.
Because journalists, me included, aren’t supposed to be judges and gatekeepers. By and large, we don’t have the foggiest idea what we’re talking about. So it’s ridiculous to have our opinion taken into account at a competition whose outcome might be seen by investors or the public to be in some way authoritative or reflective of industry opinion.
There’s a view that in emerging ecosystems, the more the merrier makes everyone better off in the long run. But it’s not the job of the fourth estate to be part of the internal consensus; it’s our job to report on it. We should resist the furry boundaries between blogger, investor and “advisor” that have sprung up in California.
Never run a real business, made an investment or spent even a week working at a start-up? No training in finance, economics or business? No problem. Become a tech blogger and hold the delicate future of a young internet business in your hands. That’s been the modus operandi of tech bloggers and their conference-running collaborators for as long as their have been pitch competitions.
But it’s got to stop. Let’s leave journalists to those jobs they ought to be good at: hosting, moderating, interviewing and attention-seeking, shall we? And leave the “judging” to serial entrepreneurs, investors, and whoever is slapping down the cash. Because this “judging” business as a way of sucking up to writers is just absurd.