Why the Yahoo feeding frenzy?

With camera crews staking out space outside Yahoo's Sunnyvale headquarters, some employees are striking back, uploading photos of the TV reporters to Flickr before the sluggish old media can get their broadcasts together. And that's part of the big story.

With some perspective, the focus on Yahoo seems a bit strange: 1,500 lost jobs are not inconsiderable, but they pale in comparison to the 533,000 shed by the U.S. economy last month. And yet Yahoo's layoffs get all the buzz — 1,933 stories on Google News in the past 24 hours.

Why all the hullabaloo? It's partly because Yahoo's rise and fall has such an epic quality, making it a proxy for Silicon Valley's boom-and-bust cycle. And it's partly because Yahoo, even in its troubled state, has a place at the future of media — through sites like Flickr, the photo-sharing site which turns every person with a digital camera into a news photographer, and Yahoo Buzz, the headline-voting service which opens up the Yahoo homepage to news stories from the smallest of blogs.

It's precisely because Yahoo sits at the intersection of media and technology that it attracts such attention. Google and Microsoft seem content to wage a technological war based on who has the smartest programmers, the best algorithm, the most servers. Yahoo, meanwhile, sees a place for human beings in a future media landscape that is increasingly automated.

That's why the emotion that Yahoo attracts isn't anger, but sadness; not rage, but disappointment. Yahoo could be so much better than it is, if only it weren't saddled with visionless leaders, subpar management, and a do-nothing board. Ah, the irony: The best hope of humanity keeps getting tripped up by its people.

(Photo by cdye1)