Money determines agenda and regulates the message, apparently
Summary: Evidence of interference with editorial independence in a network notoriously friendly towards Microsoft, its large client
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is a great writer (highly knowledgeable, technical yet eloquent) and I want to start this post by clarifying that none of it came from him. It was really just me who inquired for answers. He never complained about his employer to me. He is sincere and he wanted to respond to me frankly. I will refer to him as the “author” from here onwards as I can no longer hide his identity as I attempted before (the context gives it away now).
“Several days ago I wrote, without dropping any names, that an article got deleted from ZDNet.”Several days ago I wrote, without dropping any names, that an article got deleted from ZDNet. It was very critical of Microsoft. “The short version is it shouldn’t have been published until we knew more about what was going to be revealed at Build 2013 about Windows 8.1, RT and WP8,” the author explained to me. “What appeared on Sunday was an early draft.” Okay, but if it got published, then it’s not a draft anymore. In fact, it got published and syndicated in several sites, which means it was up there for quite some time. Some Windows-friendly sites posted fragments of it. I asked the author: “Couldn’t something be modified as new information surfaced? And what is it that so dramatically changed the headline?
“From what I can make of it, you published an article – even somewhat speculatively perhaps – and other CBS staff did not like the message, so they pressured you to change the message or withhold it (requiring alternations even if by self-censorship), which means editorial interference, and not the first I would see from this network. Is that fair to say?
“I worked for Datamation and I saw how self-censorship works. I stopped writing for them and started focusing on my own platform where I can’t be bossed around like that, even by implicit deterrence.”
I remain quite convinced, based on what I found out, that the author faced opposition from other people. Maybe even people who fired other FOSS writers in ZDNet (he is the only one left after Paula left and Dana got fired).
“I remain quite convinced, based on what I found out, that the author faced opposition from other people.”Our contributor iophk says: “An acquaintance is on university faculty [....] ostensibly has the topic of media manipulation. I’m not sure if I can re-establish contact but this is the kind of thing I would expect him to cover.
“In another direction, exposing these kind of shenanigans is similar to what Dvorak was asking about. Someone on the inside coming clean with the dirty tricks.
“Going back to a very old discussion about bait headlines, I suspect that editorial staff have been pressuring authors for a while. Of late, they seem to have been stocking the author pool with their trolls (Perlow, Whittaker, etc)”
Those two names are of people who work for Microsoft or were working for Microsoft. Now they are writers for ZDNet.
“Those two names are of people who work for Microsoft or were working for Microsoft. Now they are writers for ZDNet.”The author of the above piece says: “This piece really did go out prematurely and I really did decide to switch the focus and headline as we got more info about what was what from MSFT and Intel.”
He had said that there was an editorial challenge from within, so withdrawal of the original article was not purely his choice. “The conclusion is still the same,” he said, “RT and WP8 will soon be history.”
It no longer says it in the headline like it used to. This is de-emphasised, but I agree, it still conveys a similar message. The main issue here is this: colleagues should not have interfered, or perhaps these were superiors. The culture in ZDNet is hostile towards FOSS and it shows. The author says “that’s the Web in action, once something is up you can never really pull it down.”
I responded with: “There are ways to correct or enhance by updating. Even MSM sites like Reuters do this excessively to match new information as it arrives.”
“ZDNet is rubbish and it’s well-documented that it’s a self-inflicted prognosis.”Everything I have heard from the author reassures my suspicion that they are censoring articles critical of Microsoft at CBS sites like ZDNet, even just by discouraging writers. It is self-censorship as we called it the other day. Here is the modified article. It says: “In time, Microsoft’s mobile operating systems, WP8 and RT, will be left to wither and die. They’ll be replaced by Windows 8.1/Windows 9 as the next-generation x86 chip family becomes more tablet- and smartphone-friendly. Then, no matter who “wins” the mobile platform wars–Android, iOS or Windows; ARM or Intel–Microsoft will still find profits.”
Watch the comment that says: “Your comment contains words or phrases associated with spam and will not appear on the site until it has been checked by a moderator.”
The thing about ZDNet moderators is, they deleted my comments despite these comment violating no policy and just because the moderators did not agree with what I said. ZDNet is practising censorship at several levels, not just when it comes to comments. Microsoft is a client of CBS, but for ZDNet to sell out like this or give up on integrity because of that simply means that it’s not news/journalism, it’s agenda or propaganda with a tinge of truth for posturing as “balance” or “facts”. It’s like Rupert Murdoch’s Fox ‘news’.
Techrights, by contrast, in almost seven years of existence, never deleted a single post or even a single comment. Moreover, I tend to publish all site-related E-mail that I receive, e.g. in IRC (publicly archived), sometimes anonymised or trimmed to respect privacy. There is no room for ‘leaks’ against us as we are as transparent as can be. We did receive several leaks in the past and we did publish them without ever failing to protect their source. So, we cannot be accused of hypocrisy here. ZDNet is rubbish and it’s well-documented that it’s a self-inflicted prognosis. █