Over the years, the tech media has been accused of being “influence peddlers.” Dan Primack presents a rational and (I believe) balanced view of that accusation in his article “Tech Media Misconceptions” in Fortune.
Dan notes that “(a)ll journalists who break news are in the business of giving and receiving favors.” After all, journalists need sources. And developing a source means “forming a business relationship to further improve our product. And just like in any business relationship, both sides expect to get something out of it.”
Whatever the source wants, the media typically want something very basic: an important story.
Money typically does not change hands in the journalist-and-source relationship – at least not directly. But face it, almost all reporters are dependent on advertisers. “This isn’t to say that we won’t write something critical of an advertiser — just like most of us will write something critical of our own sources — but the conflict isn’t absent from our thought process.”
And then there are the technology conferences. These events are put on primarily to generate revenue. A “well-attended conference can generate more money in a day than can a month’s worth of on-site advertising.”
And how do you get a well-attended conference? “High-profile speakers. The higher the better. And do you know who usually recruits those speakers? Journalists, because they’re the ones with the existing relationships.
“In other words, journalists basically ask the people they are covering to appear at an event for the purpose of making money for that journalist’s employer (which then has more money to pay the journalist, or give them a raise).”
Definitely a two-edged sword, and a primary reason for the skepticism about technology journalism. But “ultimately, it all comes down to reader trust, which journalists and media outlets gain over time by regularly publishing accurate, insightful and/or entertaining information.”
And that is the bottom line.