The judge who recently decided the Oracle vs Google patent/copyright trial (in Google’s favor) just issued an order asking both firms to disclose any payments made to journalists, pundits or bloggers who covered the trial.
Alsup seems set on addressing a growing problem in the world of punditry: nominally independent commentators who are secretly in the pay of interested parties. “There are a lot of people on Oracle’s payroll and Google’s payroll who are industry pundits. Any of those could have triggered his concern,” Goldman told us.
But it’s not clear that Alsup’s broadly worded order is an appropriate or effective remedy for that problem. The judicial process is deliberately engineered to be insulated from outside pressures, including those from the press. So even if we make the plausible assumption that media coverage of the case has been slanted by corporate cash, that doesn’t necessarily mean the slanted coverage would affect the outcome of the legal process.
It’s safe to say the blogosphere suffers from a lack of transparency. In many markets, the stakes aren’t very high, but in the high-tech world — and in this case in particular — millions are on the line.
As the Mercury’s Chris O’Brien notes, both Google and Microsoft are paying pundits and bloggers a lot of money to influence public opinion of anti-trust issues (Microsoft was caught red-handed after hiring a PR firm to spread largely false rumors about Google)
I’m left wondering how many writers are secretly on someone’s payroll; conducting stealth marketing on an organization’s behalf.
It’s a very common practice in the political arena, but it appears the tech world has embraced the practice. Done behind the scenes, I think it’s an abhorrent practice.
If you’re upfront about it, it seems like a good way for a writer with good analytic skills to make a living.
If you’re writing from the shadows, then you might want to take a moment and consider how your work might be perceived if the curtain was drawn back on your involvement.
Keep writing (but for whom?), Tom Chandler.