Many years ago I witnessed a car crash on a Massachusetts highway late at night. No one was killed or seriously injured, but one of the cars ended up stalled in the middle of a dark part of the roadway. As another motorist stopped to help out, I ran to a lighted part of the highway and waved my arms to alert approaching cars to the disabled vehicle. One of them sideswiped it and kept right on going. A minute later a second car came barreling past, and it too ran into the car and sped off into the night.
Something similar is happening today. Last week we published an editorial about companies squelching dissent among the media and financial community ("Killing the messenger," page 4) by blacklisting reporters or analysts. Cases involving Mercury Interactive and Altera Corp. have been reported in The New York Times and other publications. Amid all this press, Google last week had the stones to shut out reporters from CNET's online news site, News.com. In case you missed the story, News.com Googled some personal information about Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt. Schmidt wasn't giggling, and the Googlians won't be speaking to our colleagues at News.com until July 2006.
As we wrote last week, this childish and tawdry practice is not new, but it seems to have picked up steam in the era of instant information and instant reaction to instant information. Corporations may believe they can strong-arm major media houses, which have lost their spines in the past few decades. They may also be emboldened by the zealous message management of political operatives in both major parties.
But they shouldn't get too comfy. Some of us take solemnly and seriously our role as information gatherers, filters and disseminators. Media may be taking it on the chin right now, but the pendulum swings. We have an old saying in this business: Don't pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.
By Brian Fuller (email@example.com), editor in chief of EE Times