I gather you know how I feel about the quality of American political journalism. But American technology journalism is even worse. Consider the case of Ryan Lawler, which is currently being secretly prosecuted by Ryan Lawler in the form of a post he better hope he never finds out he’s written. It concerns a party held last night in honor of what seems to be as laudable as something called “an app” can possibly be: a ride-sharing app called Lyft. What horror befell Lawler at this party?
There was beer and wine and a little bit of food. There was cake. Somebody drove a car with a pink moustache on the front into the middle of the office and some people hopped out and talked about their experiences with users. It was a joyous occasion, a time for everyone to relax and celebrate all the hard work they had been putting into it, to breathe a little, let loose … After the launch party concluded, I went to another event, and blissfully ignored all RSS feeds and emails. It was a good night. I got drunk. I danced a little. I went home and passed out.
The horror! Wait—the title of Lawler’s post is “Exclusive: Startup Launch Ruined By Careless Blogger.” Where’s the ruin?
Then, an hour later, someone posted about the event and the upcoming launch, and shit went sideways.
That person must’ve written something really horrible, right, if the “shit went sideways.” What did they write?
I didn’t realize the embargo was broken until about 12 hours later … I searched Google, found the offending post, and realized how late it was to follow up. It wasn’t like the thing had just been published. I would be following someone else’s story half a day later, and no one wants to do that.
They just wrote about Lyft before Lawler did. They weren’t supposed to mention it until next Tuesday but they did. Meaning that while Lawler “got drunk,” “danced a little,” and “went home and passed out,” some other journalist didn’t get drunk, danced very little, and went home and filed a story. And because that other journalist did, Lawler can’t write about Lyft now. He can’t. Even though
it’s become really popular among the TechCrunch staff. Alexia, Josh, Kim, and I are all users. We all love the service, love what these guys are doing.
He can’t write about it, because someone else announced the launch before he did. He loves the service, but someone else wrote about it before he did so now he can’t write about it. He
really wanted to support them and get the word out. Sometimes you’re ambivalent about a startup, and so it’s not a big deal to just let that one go. But this was a product and a team that I like. I want them to succeed.
So he really wanted to support a company he loves, one that wined-and-dined him a mere twelve hours earlier, but now he can’t because someone else wrote about them first. This service that he loves must be punished because of someone else’s mistake. The only reason Lawler even deigned to write about Lyft despite being beat to the story is because he wants our sympathy. He was supposed to break this story. His was supposed to be the bland press release that no one really ever bothers to read. But now that someone else has written about Lyft, the best he can do is write a post so overbrimming with misguided passive-aggression that no one should ever take him seriously again.
Note that none of this has anything to do with the quality of the
journalism. Or the quality of the product for that matter. It’s all
about the journalistic imperative to yell “FIRST!” on the Internet. And
do you know what I think of people whose life’s goal is to yell “FIRST!”
on the Internet? Especially when they claim to be journalists?
I think they’re terrible human beings.