Eric Schmidt addressed the American Society of News Editors yesterday in D.C. As part of an apparent strategy of mollifying the media, he insulted the integrity and professionalism of bloggers and the quality of blogs. You know. Like this one.Google's CEO
"There is an art to what you do," he said to the real journalists. "And if you're ever confused as to the value of newspaper editors, look at the blog world. That's all you need to see. So we understand how fundamental tradition and the things you care about are."
My hand to G-d, I'm not even sure where to begin with this one.
First, I am a journalist. I mean an I-worked-for-a-newspaper, I-was-a-stringer-for-Reuters, I-was-a-host-for-NPR, I-freelanced-for-Newsweek type journalist, the sort of journalist our CEO friend was presumably talking about. But I've also been a blogger since 2004. This blog I now write for is in the top ten of blogs for readership and has a sterling rep for...can you guess? JOURNALISM, you blowhard.
How many journalists blog? How many bloggers are journalists? How many blogs are chockablock with journalism? This motif of the whirly-eyed blogger in his pajamas was getting stale before I started my blog. (And for the record, I haven't owned pajamas since I was old enough to shave.)
"We have goals in common," Schmidt oozed. "Google believes in the power of information. We believe that it's better to have more information than less."
Well. It's funny he should mention that.
Schmidt, if you've been rusticating outside the Kuiper belt, first attracted journalistic attention, for more than his balliwick as head bean-counter at Google, when he blackballed all CNET journalists. This was a reaction to a journalist doing her job. In response to his pooh-poohing privacy questions, Elinor Mills Googled him and then published what she found. How...dare she?
He's also gained some WTF-points by trying to silence his alleged former mistress, Kate Bohmer. She had what appeared to be a fictionalized portrait of him on her blog until he marshaled a horde of lawyer-bots and sicced them on her.
But being creepy is not enough to warrant coverage, not on this blog anyway. The problem is, Schmidt's actions create a pattern of hypocrisy in relationship to the information and privacy issues on which he has so frequently pontificated. If Schmidt were the CEO of the world's largest culvert manufacturer, it would hardly matter. But he isn't and it does.
Schmidt is a man who guides one of the world's largest online information chaebols. He sets, or influences, policy that affects millions of people. And his Byronesque declamations of Google's position in the moral vanguard of the Internet age seem difficult to countenance when they are set off at every turn with actions that contravene the company's public values.
Maybe Google needs some sort of guiding trope, a first-principal that all of its people could refer to; something that, if Google employees found themselves unable to harmonize with it, would oblige them to give notice and maybe run off to develop more efficient well-poisoning systems for orphanages.
DON'T BE EVIL.