For those members of the population who aren’t constantly reading up the latest “IT and digital news”, their perception of our industry is, I suspect, largely governed by what they find in our mainstream media. And even though the newspaper is in long-term, possibly terminal, decline, it is still the press who, along with the BBC, dominate the news agenda in the UK. Nonetheless, given their well-known propensity for reporting ‘bad news’ ((IT ‘disasters’ in the NHS etc.) rather than good, and not letting the facts get in the way of a good story, it’s important that the media do actually report what our industry does.
With that in mind, I thought it would be instructive to have a look at what a sample of the major media organisations think is worth reporting about the aforementioned ‘IT and digital news’. To that end, I conducted a totally unscientific, but nonetheless entertaining, trawl through a number of newspapers’ websites.
If a member of the public wants to find out what the major newspapers are reporting in the IT field, they need to ask the right question in the first place. I started by using “IT news” as my search string, but this was often worse than useless - a sample result from the Daily Telegraph included “Reflections on the self: from Dürer to Struth, in pictures”, followed by “Chelsea transfer news and rumours”!. It wasn’t until I expanded it to “IT and digital news” that (some) relevant information came up.
When I searched using this string, a lot of, OK, a bit more, digital news came up. The Telegraph wasn’t much better though, with the first result being a story from 2007, followed by a piece on pocket money and ‘digital curls’ in hair, both from 2015.
At the other end of the political spectrum, the Guardian tries to push anyone searching for digital news towards its own Guardian Digital Media Group: as a result almost all the results are for stories to do with digital media and especially the big publishers’ approach to what is, for them, a real problem as they see paper sales plummet and online revenues struggle to make up the difference. The Independent is about as useless as the Telegraph, with its search results throwing up stories about Ferne Cotton, the Eurovision Song Contest, the film director Brad Bird and similar, not-very-techie stuff.
Moving to the polar opposite of the Indie, the Daily Mail, famous for its online ‘news’ sidebar, at least has some digital stories, albeit largely about Apple, before reaching for more familiar territory along the lines of ‘Spanish king’s nephew in argument at Madrid amusement park’ and the very Mailish, “Do auto-checks spell disaster? Only two-thirds of adults achieve spelling level expected of primary school children”. And yes, there was a story attacking the BBC too!
The Daily Mirror is halfway between the Mail and the Independent when it comes to IT and digital news. A sprinkling of news about Apple and Google comes up first before we get to the celebrity stuff. Not great, but better than the Sun, where you have to register even to search for anything. Instead, I searched on Google for “The Sun IT and digital news” and got a story about a cow having a QR code branded on to its side.
The BBC’s home page search facility takes us into much the same kind of results as the Mirror/Mail, albeit with a BBC slant. However, those in the know will go to the main BBC News page where you can find a ‘Tech’ section, which is pretty good, with a mixture of populist and industry news.
However, I’ve left the best to last. The Times, certainly on the basis of my search, has far more really interesting IT and digital news than all the rest of its competitors. Not only that, but they are proper news stories – all from the last few weeks or months – and not just reporting the day’s topical story (at the time of writing the new Apple music streaming service). So if you’re old enough to remember the ‘Thunderer’s’ famous advertising slogan, we can adapt it for the 21st century – “Top IT people take the Times”. Or rather, look at it online!
In conclusion, although I firmly believe in the importance of quality journalism (IT ‘disasters’ do need highlighting), it’s disappointing that so many of the major titles don’t seem to take IT as seriously as they should. In fact, IT is so important to the media industry itself you’d think they might be more aware of its current and future importance to our economy and society - and.more forthright in acknowledging the many success stories we have rather than concentrating on digital curls and QR codes on cows.
Michael Phair, Consultant, Be-IT Resourcing