Jul 6, 2020 - Technology

Tensions between tech industry and tech media boil over

The New York Times building.
The New York Times building. Photo: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Tensions between tech and tech media hit a boiling point over the weekend, in the latest fraying of a once-cozy relationship.

The shortest version is that New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz tweeted out some screenshots from the public Instagram of Away CEO Steph Korey, in which she criticized media coverage of her company.

  • Some tech investors and execs took exception to Lorenz’s characterization of Korey’s comments — and of amplifying them in the first place. The loudest opponent was crypto entrepreneur and former VC Balaji Srinivasan, who offered Bitcoin prizes to makers of memes about the episode (which, predictably, includes memes denigrating Lorenz).
  • This brouhaha extended from Twitter to techie voice chat app Clubhouse, a portion of which was leaked to Vice (don’t waste your time, the leak covered a pretty pedestrian hour of a longer conversation). Srinivasan has claimed Vice journalists themselves recorded the conversation, but has provided no evidence to back that up.

Some quick thoughts:

  1. Lorenz made a factual error in her initial tweet, related to Korey’s initial position at the company. She is a public figure, and scrutiny of such errors — and of her characterization of Korey's comments as "incoherent" — are fair game.
  2. Korey, as CEO of a (once) unicorn company, is also a public figure and her public comments are par for the course.
  3. Srinivasan escalated his longstanding critique of the media — and to the NYT in particular — into childish taunting and what could have become dangerous bullying. He also injected accusations of racial bias into the conversation, which was illegitimate.

Tensions between tech and those who cover it aren't new (see Wag, Valley). But there has been a ratcheting up of animosity and of assuming ill-intent. Not in all quarters, of course, but among some of the loudest and most influential voices in each realm.

The bottom line: Everyone needs to take a breath. Tech's job is to build. Tech media's job is to report on all aspects of what's being built — for better or for worse. And when mistakes are made, reflexive defensiveness is the worst posture.

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