David Pogue's taken fire from all sides: Both bloggers and the New York Times columnist's own public editor challenged the tech reviewer over his conflicts of interests. He's finally unloaded with both barrels, at friend and foe alike.
The forum was Leo Laporte's influential podcast, This Week in Tech, which has devoted large chunks of not one but two episodes to skewering Pogue over his oddly positive review of Apple's latest operating system, which just might have been influenced by the fact that Pogue has a book coming out on the OS.
The gist: Pogue copped to a conflict of interest, but said he isn't and has never claimed to be a journalist, and besides all his competitors have huge conflicts of their own, including archrival Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal who runs a conference where people pay $4,500 each to hear live interviews with the people whose products Mossberg reviews. How refreshing to hear Pogue finally talk about this very real conflict of Mossberg's, which is normally left unspoken within the genteel club of tech writers.
Beyond that, Pogue said Times editors repeatedly rejected his past entreaties to disclose his conflict of interest in his column. And he cited instances where he's been critical of Apple products.
Also: "I like my interview subjects to like me."
We thought Pogue's comments about never calling himself a journalist were odd. First off, the Times' public editor clearly considers him one, as NYTPicker points out. Also, judging from past Pogue writings our own John Cook dug up on Nexis, the columnist sure likes to hang out at places where "journalists" are invited:
"Apple revealed its answer Tuesday to an invited audience of journalists at a half demonstration, half U2 rock concert here..."
"The result of his brainstorm was Demo, an annual two-day conference attended by 800 analysts, executives, reporters and investors, their belts clanking with pagers, cell phones and Palms."
"When I shared my plans with representatives of the Big Three — Duracell, Eveready and Rayovac — they told me, with the weary sighs of people who explain this point to journalists every day, that battery run-down tests are terribly misleading."
"APPLE doesn't send out greeting cards very often, especially by FedEx. So when the company mailed cards to reporters last week, too soon for Christmas and too rushed for Halloween, some curiosity was understandable."
And Pogue isn't above adopting the disdainful tone of a top-shelf reporter when he's feeling superior:
Still, I think very little of the bloggers who are keeping Microsoft's bribe laptops.
Clearly, they're exploiting the lawless, Brave New World of the blogsophere, where, since they're Not Quite Journalists, they don't feel constrained by any of those pesky journalistic ethics guidelines. Like the one that says, "You don't keep $2,200 gifts from the subject of your review. You might think you can still write an impartial review, but it's highly unlikely-and either way, nobody will believe it."
Nevermind that Pogue accepted a $2,000 gift of his own; he's now freely admitted that he's Not Quite a Journalist himself.
UPDATE: Non-journalist Pogue recently gave the keynote address at a conference put on by the Columbia Journalism Review, at Columbia University's School of Journalism, entitled "Opportunities and Dangers for Journalism." Now does that sound like something a journalist would do? (Hat tip to Fake Steve Jobs.)
(Pogue pic: Randal Schwartz)