The sad state of journalism … with regard to Linux

I had a university professor tell me once that the true sign of popularity and success was the presence of imitators hoping to leech a little attention off your efforts. I would lump spammers into that category, along with some very poor journalists as well.

I have to concede some bias — I was trained as an “old-school” print journalist before the tide turned in Western media, and suddenly the line between news and advertising became hopelessly blurred. I will admit that I left the industry in part because of the disgusting level of unprofessionalism I saw, and I would never consider going back except under specific circumstances.

Aside from that though, I noticed two forum threads (here and here) in the past day that link to Ubuntu-related articles, and neither of them is a stellar example of proper reporting.

The first is this colossal gaffe by the erstwhile-reputable linux.com, in which the author scans through “Canonical’s forums” and picks out 10 “problems” that Ubuntu needs to fix because they “have the potential to prevent a new user from adopting Ubuntu in the long term.”

Whether or not you’ve faced any of these problems is generally what determines your reaction to the article. Yes, there will always be video issues, or mounting problems — but even the author admits those are solvable. So why is it rotten reporting?

Mostly because it’s neither valid nor measurable. Picking error threads out of a heap and listing them as dealbreaker problems is ridiculous. Like I mentioned elsewhere, I might as well skim through an issue of The Times and list 10 problems that Britain should solve because they’re preventing new immigrants from coming to the UK. You can see how lousy an idea that is.

Even better though, is this chestnut from InformationWeek.com, a self-described “guide” to installing Ubuntu in 12 easy steps … which is really just a collection of a dozen screenshots of the live CD installer — from two years ago.

Four paragraphs and some leftover, 2-year-old screenshots of Dapper does not a guide make. And neither does it make proper reporting. Beyond that, I have no comment … except to say that if my first editor ever saw work like that, the reporter would have been selling lotto tickets in a convenience store the next morning.

But again, if my old professor is right, then these low-grade attempts to suck attention by including offhand or sloppy references to the Ubuntu phenomenon … are actually some sort of flattery. Ubuntu has hit a point of popularity where everybody (and yes, that includes the clowns who spam the Ubuntu category here on WordPress.com) has heard the word, and nobody wants to be left out of the frenzy.

So take it as an backhanded compliment. Linux is getting so big, even the crappy reporters are putting Ubuntu on their to-do lists. :twisted:

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4 Responses to “The sad state of journalism … with regard to Linux”


  1. 1 ubuntucat 2008/07/02 at 10:38 AM

    In a way, it’s the fault of the Ubuntu community for Digging and posting on the Ubuntu Forums any mention of Ubuntu, no matter how inane.

  2. 2 xabbott 2008/07/03 at 12:13 AM

    While the Linux.com article does have issues I personally would like more articles with its intention. I’m sorry Ubuntu, Linux, etc is not for everyone.

    Even if you put unique hardware situations aside. I’ve been running into situations where people will try to improve old machines by installing Ubuntu. A stock Ubuntu install on older hardware, I find, runs worse than XP or 2000.

    Of course you could say the performance decrease is worth the much better security, features and applications. But isn’t that Vista’s argument?

  3. 3 crashhandler 2008/07/16 at 8:36 PM

    MUST say nice things only to UBUNTU.

  4. 4 K.Mandla 2008/07/16 at 10:34 PM

    No, I think you missed the point. If the articles were well grounded, or even just timely, they wouldn’t be a problem. As it is, one is random, the other is so out-of-date as to be laughable. That’s the issue.


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