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LinuxPlanet: .comment: On Writing About Linux

Jun 20, 2001, 13:55 (49 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dennis E. Powell)

A central cliché in the news-consuming audience is the bloodthirsty media, pandering to the darker impulses of its audience. A central cliché among reporters is the bloodthirsty audience's demand to be pandered to, and the subsequent reward of those efforts with ratings and pageviews. Dennis Powell looks at the issue of covering bad news about Linux from a reporter's perspective, using two recent stories about GNOME and KDE as examples. At issue: Are Linux reporters here to cheerlead? Does reporting bad news constitute endorsement of the news? And why did a story about Red Hat turning its first profit (in many ways representing Linux turning its first profit) get only half the attention?

"Which story did readers think more important? Again, it's difficult to tell, but twice as many people read about the disputes in KDE and GNOME as read about Red Hat's profits, as of six hours following the posting of the later piece. Twice as many people posted comments to the dispute story, too, though most of those were to condemn me, LinuxToday, or both, for having, in the immortal cliché used in at least one of the talkbacks, aired the projects' dirty laundry, and for being happy the disputes took place.

First, I'm not happy the disputes took place. In the column that was to have run today, I mentioned my pleasure in a theme developed by Daniel M. Duley, known in the KDE community as Mosfet, who wrote the Pixie application and who has been performing some very attractive alpha-channel miracles. He is the longtime KDE developer at the center of that dispute, about which more in due course.

Second, it is utterly astonishing to me that people who are forever going on about "free speech" and the like, which was codified for the first time in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, would now suggest that a medium whose purpose is to cover things Linux should not cover anything inconveniently embarrassing or that casts a bad light on what they wish people would believe, as they do, about Linux. This suggests to me that these poor, real-life-less specimens are merely conduits, who devote little or no time to thought and absolutely none to independent thought -- whose next original notion will be their first. True Believers, Eric Hoffer called them. Miserable whining cowards hiding, often, behind aliases and phony email addresses, I call them, when I'm being polite. (People who pleasure themselves while gazing at a jpeg of Madonna and don't know that it's different from actually being with Madonna, which is understandable because they lack the experience from which to draw the distinction, when I'm not being polite.) Fortunately, they can usually be safely ignored -- what stock can one take in the views of those for whom no respect is possible? But sometimes they get loud enough and annoying enough that they need to be identified, characterized, and very specifically disregarded. Consider it done. "

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