What happens when the prim self-satisfaction of New York's media elite meets the smug hubris of Silicon Valley's unblinking technocrats? Why, a Maureen Dowd profile of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, that's what happens.
Eric Schmidt looks innocent enough, with his watercolor blue eyes and his tiny office full of toys and his Google campus stocked with volleyball courts and unlocked bikes and wheat-grass shots and cereal dispensers and Haribo Gummi Bears and heated toilet seats and herb gardens and parking lots with cords hanging to plug in electric cars.
Despicably winsome, isn't Google? But the most awful thing about Google's Schmidt is his unwillingness to write a check to the newspaper industry.
In a typical Dowdism, the New York Times columnist asserts unproven opinion as fact:
Google is in a battle royal over whether it has the right to profit so profligately from newspaper content at a time when journalism is in such jeopardy.
This profligate profit apparently comes from linking to headlines and driving traffic to newspaper websites. Dowd never explains the mechanism by which Google makes money; Google News only recently started carrying ads, and it's a tiny part of Google's overall business. But Schmidt doesn't bother to parry Dowd's lame logic. He merely lectures her about how newspapers should come up with new products — and then explains why they probably can't.
Dowd finally asks him if editorial judgment still matters. Schmidt replies:
We learned in working with newspapers that this balance between the newspaper writers and their editors is more subtle than we thought. It's not reproducible by computers very easily.
I feel better for a minute, until I realize that the only reason he knew that I wasn't so easily replaceable is that Google had been looking into how to replace me.
Really, can one blame Schmidt for wanting to try?