The Associated Press does it again. "Yahoo's Yang decides he's no longer the right CEO." That's gotta be a fun job, coming up with the dryly sarcastic headlines. But you gotta be careful with those, because unwitting Web surfers who don't get the jokes-inside-jokes voice of the Internet might actually think you're reporting that Jerry Yang made the decision.
Dan Lyons is shocked, shocked that Yahoo's PR team lied to him about how long CEO Jerry Yang would stay in the job. PR people routinely lie; it's part of the job description. But the good ones don't get caught. Lyons, Newsweek's tech columnist, interviewed Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock less than a month before Monday's announcement that Yang would step down, and Bostock loudly declared Yang was here to stay. One would think no one would be more cynical about the world of tech PR than the man who savaged Apple's spinmeister when he impersonated CEO Steve Jobs in a satirical blog. Lyons is no longer writing as Fake Steve Jobs, but as the real Dan Lyons, he occasionally summons up the old savagery. Here's what he says about the flacks who deceived him about Yang's employment status, as well as a now-scotched advertising deal with Google:
Have you spent years building your reputation as a reporter? Are you a bit anxious, because you read a rant by Jeff Jarvis that says you're now unemployable for life? Never fear. Smug-faced Six Apart CEO Chris Alden is here to save you with The TypePad Journalist Bailout Program. How it works: You send Six Apart a link to "your last piece for a newspaper, magazine or broadcast journalism venue." Six Apart gives you a free TypePad blog. You get to keep a few pennies of the couple of bucks per month Six Apart will make from ads they'll run on your blog. Most important, the inept, self-aggrandizing management team at Six Apart gets to brag about all the storied journalists they've now got blogging for them. Thanks for the offer, Chris. But I'd rather saw my own head off.
"I always laugh when people talk about how 'self-promotional' I am," blogs vaguely-connected-to-BusinessWeek writer Sarah Lacy in a 902-word post, "given that for ten years of my career you never knew a thing about me other than my byline." Lacy says that Valleywag was more interesting when editor-owner Nick Denton wrote it. We think she's onto an interesting pattern: Sarah Lacy was more interesting when Nick Denton wrote about her, too.
"Something has changed in the last year or two," Slate's Ron Rosenbaum says of Entertainment Weekly founder turned professional conference-goer Jeff Jarvis. "It's the callous contempt for working journalists that grates. It's a contempt for the beautiful losers." True, it's puzzling to watch new media pundits spit in the faces of all the sad, doomed newspaper reporters whose careers are being eroded by the Internet. Rosenbaum goes way longer than Slate ever lets me write, so I've pull-quoted his best 100 words:
My Wired essay "Kill Your Blog" has spawned a charmingly identical piece in The Economist's print edition this week. Same theme, same Jason Calacanis quote from July. But read this part out loud: "A decade ago, PDAs were the preserve of digerati who liked using electronic address books and calendars. Now they are gone, but they are also ubiquitous, as features of almost every mobile phone." I'd love to meet The Economist's anonymous author, if only to confirm that anyone on Earth actually talks that way.
What about the children? Palo Alto High School teacher Esther "Woj" Wojcicki took time away from educating future reporters to write about America's teens for the Huffington Post. In the piece, she promotes a nonprofit letter-writing project sponsored by Google and touts the use of Google Docs. No surprise there: Woj, whose daughter Anne is married to Google cofounder Sergey Brin and whose daughter Susan is a Google executive, has been promoting Google's pet causes from the first. But only now, after Valleywag has twice pointed out Woj's failure to disclose family conflicts of interest, has she started to include a disclaimer. Too bad it's deceptive.Woj's new disclaimer reads:
When Patrick Byrne, the CEO of Overstock.com, isn't issuing paranoid rants about "naked shorts" ruining Wall Street, or admitting that his online store's buggy software has been producing false financial reports, he keeps busy lying to journalists. Including yours truly. Back in 2002, I interviewed Byrne for Business 2.0 magazine, a tipster recently reminded me. Here was the exchange:
Time's Anita Hamilton is refreshingly honest about why the magazine has picked 23andMe, the mail-order DNA testing outfit, as one of its top innovations of 2008: Anne Wojcicki, the startup's cofounder, is married to Google cofounder Sergey Brin. Few outlets are as forthright in displaying their motivations for celebrating 23andMe, arguably the least innovative and least scientific of the retail DNA tests on the market. Give Anne Wojcicki a prize, and her loyal husband will attend the awards ceremony. It's a great way to get Googler star power on the cheap.
Esther Wojcicki, known as "Woj" at Palo Alto High School, where she teaches journalism, is a beloved figure on campus. She's also quite welcome at the Googleplex, as the mother of Anne Wojcicki, who's married to Google cofounder Sergey Brin, and Google executive Susan Wojcicki. I wonder if proximity to power and wealth has dulled Woj's reportorial instincts.She recently wrote a wide-eyed travelogue for the Huffington Post about the first flight of the Zeppelin NT, a blimp launched by startup Airship Ventures. Airship is backed by Esther Dyson, who is also an investor in her daughter Anne's startup, 23andMe. That, at the least, Woj ought to have disclosed. (I've asked Mario Ruiz, an executive at Huffington Post, if she violated any of the online publication's disclosure rules for writers; he has yet to reply. But if she really wanted to impress her students with her journalism chops, Woj might have asked questions about Amphitheatre LLC, the shadowy entity which has also invested in Airship Ventures. Amphitheatre shares a name with the street address of Google's headquarters — and possibly more. I would love to have known what Woj would have discovered, had she been less interested in promoting her daughter's investor's new startup.
Great news for Obama: "Majority of Allegheny prostitutes are on the Democratic side." This is a fantastic piece of investigative journalism by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. See, they found 675 people convicted of prostitution-related crimes and then looked up their voter registration information. Look what else they discovered:
Ana Marie Cox, the original Wonkette blogger, left our cozy Gawker family two years ago for a big gig with Time. A regular on TV and in wonky political magazines I don't read, Cox has been blogging for Time from John McCain's plane. But now Ana Marie is in trouble: Turns out her $1,000-a-day expenses on McCain's plane weren't fully covered by Time. Cox was making ends meet with paychecks from Radar, a pseudoinfluential New York magazine. Radar goes out of business every couple of years to stay trendy. Last week, the mag dutifully shut down for a third time. Cox, despite a "mid-six-figures" book deal in the works, was reduced to pleading for donations on her personal blog. There's a big lesson here, and I think it's: Owen, I want my travel paid in advance.
The Wall Street Journal is running a strange article about Twitter. Everything about it strikes me as bizarre, right down to the picture, which shows Jack Dorsey, the cofounder recently ousted as the company's CEO. Indeed, the article is more telling in what it doesn't cover than what it does.For example, it doesn't even allude to the company's office drama; cofounder Biz Stone subs in as spokesman for new CEO Ev Williams. It also skips over Twitter's latest privacy violation, which even affected the author of the piece. But it does, in a roundabout way, get at the heart of Twitter's problem: The tool for posting short text updates can be useful for businesses — just not Twitter itself. Cofounder Biz Stone suggests the company may find a way to charge business customers for "premium services." A great idea. If only it had tried it a year ago, before the market crisis made such a move look desperate, rather than a bold experiment. (Photo by Getty Images)
Peter Kafka is Kara Swisher's latest star hire at AllThingsD. She stole him from Silicon Alley Insider, where he worked with Henry Blodget. At SAI, Kafka always seemed to do fine without invoking the wisdom of the crowd. Why is Kara pushing him to go on and on about nothing? His first post was the standard Web 2.0 "Hello, world." His second takes 400 words to restate its own headline. Peter, here's my first and last free rewrite. Give me credit for not saying "Kafka-esque."
Microsoft says that Windows 7, the badly needed replacement for Windows Vista, the operating system so laughably bad it tried renaming it, is coming out in 2010. Officially. But Mary Jo Foley, the longtime Microsoft observer, thinks it's coming sooner — before the middle of next year, quite possibly. Foley has plenty of sources she talks to on the phone, but she does some of her best work piecing things together at her keyboard.First clue: Microsoft has said Windows 7 will ship before the next WinHEC event, a conference for PC makers who license Windows. Second clue: While Microsoft hasn't publicly announced a date for the next WinHEC, a New Orleans convention site lists it as happening next May — something Foley found not by dialing for dollops of information, but rather by Googling it.
"'Thanks to convoluted laws and corrupt officials, claiming ownership over a piece of property in Bangalore can be as easy as hiring thugs to paint your name on the side of a building.' The chaos makes gangsters who can impose order — like the murderous Muthappa Rai — very wealthy."(Disclosure: Former Valleywag pageview champ Nicholas Carlson now blogs at a higher pay scale for Silicon Alley Insider. Good reblog, Nicholas! Now quit rewriting like you're an NPR foreign correspondent. I work in tech. If I want to meet "the murderous Muthappa Rai," I'll book a junket to visit the call center. (Photo for Wired by Scott Carney, who unlike Carlson actually went to Bangalore.)
I'm glad Dan Lyons has landed a high-profile gig at Newsweek. But the newsweekly format crushes everything I love about Dan's writing. Look at his latest: He starts with a provocative question — why is Jerry Yang still in charge? — but doesn't answer it in the cutting manner we've come to expect. "Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently made an off-the-cuff, public comment that seemed to indicate to some he might still be interested in Yahoo." Dan, this is the kind of writing Fake Steve used to shred with his bare hands. Namaste, but please forward us some of those canned layoff leaks companies send you now that you're a checkout-stand hero.(Disclosure: Sigh. I write for Slate, which is owned by the Washington Post Company, which owns Newsweek, which sometimes runs Slate articles, but never any of mine that I know about. Happy now? I wish Murdoch would hurry up and buy us all.)