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Is Britain ready for its own ‘Tucker Carlson’?

There was a clip posted last July in which a man confronted Fox News host Tucker Carlson as he walked around a sporting goods store in Montana. Carlson, if you’re not immediately familiar, is the man you’re mostly likely to see if your exposure to Fox News is limited to just the very worst bits that get shared on Twitter.

The man told Carlson simply: “You are the worst human being known to mankind.”

I mean, there are probably stronger contenders, granted. But it’s a comment that’s easy to understand: Carlson’s show is a regularly hateful display, riling his viewers into misinformed furies on vaccinations, immigration, race and gender, delivered in sneering tones. Lately, Carlson’s been talking about tanning testicles with Kid Rock, in a series addressing an apparent crisis of falling levels of testosterone in the modern American man. (I’d focus on brain cells, personally.)

The path that led Carlson there—talking literal bollocks with Kid Rock—has been a long, controversial, but very deliberate journey, during which he has learned how to cultivate the grievances of (largely) white Americans, turning discussion around their anger and fears into a highly-profitable art form. 

Most Americans will be very familiar with his schtick. British people perhaps less so. They should pay attention. The Carlson formula is ripe for imitation, and there’s one man who I am certain knows that very well.

Or to put it another way: Piers Morgan has a new TV show.

Now, contrary to (what I think is) popular opinion, I’d argue that Morgan is one of the most talented people in British broadcasting. He has a track record of knowing when the wind is about to turn, especially when it’s against him, and he makes decisive and bold moves. You don’t get to the level of power and influence Morgan has amassed without skill and judgement.

Some would argue he is just a loudmouth. I think it’s more accurate to say he’s very good at playing one when it’s convenient and lucrative. The opposite is true too — Morgan’s more personable side can be seen in his interview series Life Stories, which lasted 12 years, and was a consistent example of high-quality TV interviewing, lowering the guard of celebrities and making even Cliff Richard seem interesting.

But, like so many in this modern media landscape, Morgan has found that the shortcut to global attention in the last decade or more has been by provoking outrage. Sometimes it comes online in the form of mean tweets about young tennis stars. Other times from “quitting” a morning TV show live on air, or for getting punched by former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who reportedly referred to Morgan as a “ghastly little weasel”.

These controversies would typically show themselves every few months. With his new show, Piers Morgan Uncensored, that outrage machine will need to be in full swing every single day. 

“Its mission statement is to cancel ‘cancel culture’,” Morgan told Ros Atkins on the BBC’s Media Show this week, warning about the “woke brigade” apparently stifling British life. It’s a good interview, not least because Atkins has become a leading figure in British media on account of being something of an anti-Morgan in style.

When asked who might make the ideal guest on his show — someone who has been cancelled — Morgan mustered JK Rowling, due to her highly-criticised perspective on transgender rights. Multi-millionaire author Rowling, Atkins duly pointed out, could of course ring up any show in the world and likely be invited on to talk. Cancelled? Hardly. 

That, of course, doesn’t generally matter. Just as Fox News, comfortably the most watched news channel in the US, rails against what “the media” won’t tell you, the definition of what constitutes being “cancelled” is highly fluid.

But it does always rely on one thing: a villain. On his show, Carlson has learned these villains can come from a variety of sources. The playbook is effective, but it’s a beast that needs constant feeding for a daily show.

Politicians are the easiest and arguably most deserving (or least undeserving, maybe) low-hanging fruit. Sometimes it’s journalists — like Taylor Lorenz — using arguments that often constitute both bad faith attacks on the reporter or columnist but also against the act of journalism itself. 

Sometimes it will go after revered cultural bodies classified as “liberal” or “elite”, such as universities or schools, or long-established scientific or health institutions. Each segment serves to undermine, or weave paranoia about who is “really” in control. When a single person can be identified and blamed, a political motive will be placed front and center as the irrefutable reason for his or her actions. 

Least deserving of all will be the regular members of the public, perhaps in minor positions of authority, whose worst, most ill-judged moments — or often just out of context ones — get filmed, uploaded to social media, and then dissected as being one example of the bigger, sinister picture. Viewers are told: this is what the “woke brigade” wants for you, so watch out. Many seem to believe it.

It’s no coincidence that the architect of both Carlson’s and now Morgan’s show is Rupert Murdoch. Morgan and Murdoch apparently long ago buried the hatchet after their falling out over Morgan’s departure from the News of the World in 1995. This, I believe, is their first project together since. Morgan calls him “swashbuckling”. 

Where all three men are smart is in finding ways to touch on legitimately held frustrations felt by many reasonable people. Right now, that’s a feeling that we’re living in an era of over-zealous shutting down of views, a limiting of free debate, or comedy, and, to use Morgan’s words, an absence of “common sense”. Whether or not you agree with people who feel that way, it is undeniably there, and Morgan will be better than anyone at tapping into it.

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But I’d like to think, on an optimistic note, that Piers Morgan is not Tucker Carlson. Indeed, Morgan said it himself. “I like his show, I like him,” he told Atkins. “I agree with about 75% of the stuff he says. Last time I checked, that’s fine.”

There are things I think are clearly in that 25%. I can’t see Morgan sharing words of support for Vladimir Putin, say, or trying to undermine an election. On that at least, he seems to have refused to play ball with Trump. (In the first interview of Morgan’s new series, Trump “stormed out“, a perfect result. Or was it?) 

Trump is day one. To make this show a success, Morgan will need to push new buttons with weaker material, and emulate Carlson in boundary-pushing ways we’ve not yet seen delivered on British television, at least not by someone of Morgan’s calibre.

Where that takes us is worth following closely. I hope, and believe, the British people are on the whole not like the Americans who rate Carlson’s show, and will reject any effort to descend headfirst into the dreck of political discourse that’s so prevalent here. The lasting legacy of Carlson’s show, and the reason he was confronted that day in Montana, is that he pitched citizen against citizen and called it informative. I’d hate to see that happen in the UK.

‘Hostile to the concept of journalism itself’

“These people on this ascendant right don’t just have different ideas about the role and function of journalism; they don’t just believe journalists are biased liberals; they don’t just believe the media is too hostile to conservatives; they are hostile to the concept of journalism itself. As in, uncovering things dutifully and carefully and attempting to convey your findings to the public honestly. They don’t want that and don’t like it and are endeavoring to end it as a common practice. You are debating logic and facts with frothing bigots with a bone-deep opposition to your entire project.”

Smart analysis — and perhaps a wake up call — from Alex Pareene on the “fallout” from Taylor Lorenz’s Washington Post story on the ‘Libs of TikTok’.

“[N]ews articles often focus on the people who die from gun violence, even though a person in Chicago is four to five times more likely to survive a shooting than die from their wounds. This has resulted in violence survivors being minimized or ignored completely — despite there being more than 24,000 of them in Chicago alone.”

Interesting reflections on reporting from Lakeidra Chavis, whose Aftershocks series found a new angle in what feels like an all-too-often told story about gun violence in Chicago.

“Twitter serves less as a town square than as a gladiatorial arena. It’s where competitors kill off one another while the crowd cheers, where teams compete in winner-take-all contests, where unending ideological demolition derbies go in circles. It’s where the spectacle lives, where attention can be captured, where people can be activated, because Twitter’s infrastructure has delivered a perpetually roiling crowd; to be on Twitter is to fight on Twitter, and often to fight about Twitter.”

Renee DiResta, writing in The Atlantic about the hostile approach to buy Twitter from you-know-who. DiResta’s perspective contains a nuance sorely lacking in Elon Musk’s TED fireside chat earlier on Thursday.

Here come The Smiths

Great piece in the New York Times today looking at the new global media organisation being launched by Ben Smith, formerly of Buzzfeed and the NYT, and Justin Smith, former CEO of Bloomberg Media.

I’ve no doubt The Smiths, as they are now to be known in media circles, will create a compelling news org that justifiably breaks some of the outdated conventions in this industry. Great.

But reading this piece, I couldn’t help notice the reemergence of several tropes — the kind of comments you often hear from yet-to-launch media groups that pledge to cure the ills of every newsroom currently operating.

Let’s start here:

[Justin] Smith also shared his thoughts about what he called the end of an era when news outlets based in London, New York or Washington dispatched journalists to foreign countries to report on the goings-on there. He asked why foreign readers would not prefer a homegrown English-speaking native to report the news in their region.

“The idea that you send some well-educated young graduate from the Ivy League to Mumbai to tell us about what’s going on in Mumbai in 2022 is sort of insane,” Mr. Smith said.

He’s certainly not the first person to make this argument. Smith’s point is that by hiring strong English speakers locally you can not only expand more cheaply, but with more integrity since locals know more than outsiders. (It’s an argument also used by media executives when they’re slashing budgets, it’s worth noting.)

It’s hard to question this logic without sounding like a pompous arse. But I think it’s fundamentally wrong.

A foreign correspondent isn’t vital because he or she knows more than a local, but because he or she is representing the audience. An ambassador, essentially, with similar frames of reference and an instinct for what’s surprising, unique, shocking (or yes, entertaining) about a news event. Without being too blunt about it: it’s better coverage. Or to put it another way, there’s a reason the best and most honest books about places usually come from travel writers.

Now, is there a risk of “parachute” journalism, where the typically white and male reporter flies in one day, stands on a hotel roof, and pretends to know it all? Yes. But that’s just bad reporting–not an indictment of the foreign correspondent as a concept.

The very best at the job, the likes of Lyse Doucet or Steve Rosenberg, combine their knowledge of their audience with an ability to harness the right sources on the ground. The current coordination between the BBC’s core English news service and the teams from BBC Russia and BBC Ukraine is perhaps the best example of pairing the two pools of expertise.

Come to think of it, if there’s an ignorance problem that needs to be solved, The Smiths should look closer to home. The editorial agenda of a global news org isn’t determined in the overseas bureaus, but in the morning conference. Improving diversity of thought and worldview in that room is the real progress that needs to be made in foreign news. To their credit, I think they know this.

Ok, next thing:

[Justin Smith] also argued that many foreign news readers were ill served.

“You maybe went to school in the U.S., you’re pretty well educated, you’re connected to your network and your family all around the world — and the quality of your local media is not amazing,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s either state-censored or, it’s just, the journalism’s not great.”

“So what do you do?” he continued. “You say, OK, well, let me let me pick up The New York Times, or let me pick up The Wall Street Journal, or let me pick up The Washington Post. And what do you get? You get exactly what you’d expect if you read something that had the word New York in it, or something that has the word Washington in it. Or you go to CNN and you get a feed from Atlanta, some regional story from the Midwest, and you’re sitting in Singapore.”

He has a good, if limited, argument here. The point he’s making — I think — is that local media in some countries is of poor quality or worse, whereas The Smiths could expand globally, offering on-the-ground coverage in the same places as the audience, raising the game and doing important work.

Sure, I can buy that, because I’ve seen it: the BBC’s Nairobi office, the corporation’s biggest bureau outside of the UK, caters specifically to the local market as well as acting as an outpost for the wider BBC. Its impact has been huge. (Again, it has been done using a mixture of outsiders and insiders to the region.)

A couple of problems here. First, this is far more expensive to do well than I think Smith appreciates–unless he’s happy to settle for a highly-disjointed news organisation with inconsistent styles and standards in each market, a confused identity that will soon feel like several separate publications rather than one global brand.

Second, the danger is that in attempting to create a news organisation for everybody, it ends up being for nobody. Or, at least, nobody thinks it is for them–which is just as bad. BBC World has this problem, I think, as has the BBC World Service. It’s always struck me how quiet the inboxes for listener feedback were for even flagship World Service shows, compared to the breakfast show on, say, BBC Radio Shropshire. The degree to which an audience feels ownership over the media they consume is hugely important.

Hell, even the tiniest things can distance local readers. The newspaper I work for is positioned as a global newspaper, but that didn’t stop someone once saying to me: “It’s British, though. You use ‘s’ instead of ‘z’.” It was a joke, but it also rings true–an audience picks up on these subtleties and cares about them.

This is all to say: The Smiths are creating an American news organisation, and the audience will never forget this, even if it doesn’t say so on the masthead.

“All journalism is an attempt to bring readers things they do not know, and all interviews with heads of state involve getting them to say things they wish they had not said. To elicit these utterances, one must approach the subject sideways—and, most of all, keep him talking, and reveal more than he intends to say. “Giving a platform”—to use the cliché that imprisons the minds of those who don’t know how journalism is done, or what its purpose is—is not a favor bestowed on important people. It is an invitation to walk the boards and fall through trap doors. And that is exactly what Saudi officials themselves, whose past two days have been spent desperately fluffing pillows for a soft landing below, seem to think their ruler did.”

Graeme Wood defending his recent profile of Mohammed bin Salman in The Atlantic. It’s a spirited defense, timeless in its observations about what good journalism is. Wood’s profile was terrific: startling and uncomfortable, a glimpse into a terrifying and powerful mind. The idea that this kind of journalism should somehow be avoided over some misguided fear of providing a ‘platform’ to those we hate is an embarrassment to those who uttered it. As Wood puts it: “Anyone who tells you otherwise does not understand the purpose of journalism.”

“They made quite a racket, quite a noise. It was all guitars and distortion — and so I would pretend to play for weeks on end and Thom would say, ‘I can’t quite hear what you’re doing, but I think you’re adding a really interesting texture because I can tell when you’re not playing’. And I’m thinking, ‘No, you can’t, because I’m really not playing.’ And I’d go home in the evening and work out how to actually play chords and cautiously over the next few months, I would start turning this keyboard up. And that’s how I started in with Radiohead.”

Radiohead keyboardist Jonny Greenwood, in an interview with NPR, describing one of the most audacious acts of “fake it ’til you make it” I’ve ever heard.

San Francisco’s wonderful cable cars (in full)

Last August I was commissioned to write a piece about San Francisco’s cable cars, which had recently come back into service after a pandemic-forced hiatus. But I misunderstood the assignment, thinking it was for a weekend slot, rather than a weekday column — a difference of about 500 words. After filing my long copy, the editor said it was “heartbreaking” to cut down, because she could tell I had blast writing it. Reading it back today reminded me she was absolutely right, I really did. So here it is in full.

(The shorter published version can be found here.)

___________

At the point where California Street meets Van Ness Avenue, a little girl peers up at the cable car headed in our direction. She keeps watching. “It’s slower than a snail!” she yells.

That’s unfair. No snail that I’m aware of has a top speed of 9 and half miles per hour, a fair clip when you’re clinging to the outside of one of these cars, as this girl soon was, clattering up and over the hill.

It’s a joy that until the beginning of August had been out-of-bounds for some 16 months. In March 2020, San Francisco’s cable cars were taken off the streets as coronavirus set-in. It was the longest break in service since 1982, when the system was taken offline for rebuilding after decades of penny-pinching.

The first time people rode on these cars was in 1873. In still running, it has become the oldest cable car system in the world. It’s the only designated national landmark in America that moves. The first line, on Clay Street, was conceived by Andrew Hallidie, a British man who emigrated to the city during the Gold Rush and who, the story goes, saw horses falling down San Francisco’s steep hills in the rain.

A recent apartment move has made the California line my daily commute. It takes me from gritty Polk Street and up past the beautiful Fairmont, the city’s classiest hotel. There’s a statue of the great Tony Bennett on its front lawn, his arms outstretched in deliverance of the climatic note of I Left My Heart in San Francisco. It was here in 1961 he performed the song for the first time, paying tribute — how couldn’t you? — to the “little cable cars” that “climb halfway to the stars”.

It takes some effort to get them there: each weighs around 15,500 pounds (7,000 kg). “They think it’s easy!” laughs Tom Leal, a born-and-bred San Franciscan who has operated a cable car for 18 years. He now also teaches new recruits, a pressing need due to a number of staff moving on, many retiring, due to the Covid-19 break in service.

Tom and his colleagues are known as “grips” or “gripmen”, since that’s essentially what they do all day. From the front of the car, they operate the vice that lowers down to grip the cable running underground all day and (mostly) all night, pulling the cars uphill and stopping them slipping down the other side. Another lever applies a brake, and there’s a foot pedal that applies a further brake — though seems to require the full weight of the operator on top of it in order to achieve much. The whole dance gives the impression the cable cars are not so much operated as they are tamed.

“I gave up asking questions,” wrote Rudyard Kipling, in American Notes, of what he called simply “the mechanism”. “If it pleases Providence to make a car run up and down a slit in the ground for many miles, and if for twopence halfpenny I can ride in that car, why shall I seek the reasons of the miracle?”

Tom, the gripman, is sitting on a small wall outside the Cable Car “barn” — the depot — which contains the “powerhouse” that runs the cables, and also doubles as a free museum. The cables need to replaced every between 75 and 250 days, depending on the severity of the strain they’ve endured in that time. Changing the cable is “painstaking”, taking around five hours in the dead of night.

When I introduce myself, Tom’s colleagues scatter — a boss named Kevin has told them not to speak to the press. Heaven forbid readers of a newspaper were to learn, or more likely be reminded, of one of this city’s most charming attractions.

The cars are particularly charming right now — they’re free to ride, rather than the usual fare which, at $8 one-way, is as steep as the hills. Such a toll is apparently necessary to offset the cost, and will surely go up. In February, city transport officials were warning that the deficit faced on their books meant the cable cars were a luxury San Francisco may not be able to afford if it’s to also run the real services of buses, trams and trains in a post-pandemic world. No wonder, then, the cars’ return to the streets had a feeling of divine intervention, as the San Francisco Chronicle described it — observing that the two men operating the first car out of the barn were both named Jesus.

It’s clear the people have missed them. They shout in approval as they go by. “You’re back! So good to see you!” one woman said one recent Friday. Tom tells me it’s not uncommon for people to break into applause.

“That’s all I get all day long. We’ve been up for nearly month now and I hear it every single day. I think it’s a relief that things are getting back to normal.”

But then, are they?

“You know, it feels like it’s coming back. But then sometimes. . .” he pauses, perhaps thinking of Kevin. “Sometimes it doesn’t, you know?”

The routes of the cable car force you to see all sides of the city’s shifting fortunes. My trip passes through the city’s Chinatown — the oldest in North America — which has seen visitor numbers fall through the floor. Many of the buildings you pass bear the words “Stop Asian Hate” on their exterior.

Things are quieter still as you pull into the city’s financial district, the end of the line. What seemed like a growing buzz earlier in the year has somewhat subsided. The Financial Times came back to its Montgomery Street office in July, but the likes of Uber, Google and Facebook — some of the city’s largest tenants — have pushed their return-to-work plans into 2022. A great deal more follow their lead. By mid August, just 19 per cent of workers are back in San Francisco’s offices, according to security firm Kastle Systems, which shares a sampling of data on keycard and fob access.

The Powell-Hyde line, one of the most popular with tourists, starts near Union Square, where you’ll find vacant shops and vacant faces. Some say the notorious Tenderloin district is the most shocking when it comes to the crisis of drug addiction and homelessness, but I’d argue the juxtaposition of Union Square, where tourists queue up outside Gucci, yards from human desperation, gives a harder jolt to your conscience.

At the other end of that line is Fisherman’s Wharf, with its barking sea lions, clam chowder and street performers. Pre-pandemic, it was one of the most popular tourists spots on the West Coast. Today, where once it teemed, it now murmurs — though hotel occupancy has been steadily rising since January, according to statistics from City Hall. Still, many waterfront restaurants remain boarded up. The usual throngs of cyclists heading towards the Golden Gate Bridge have dwindled.

But the cable car endures, as it has always done, through earthquakes, a huge fire, political pressure, and now, it seems, a pandemic. At the Friedel Klussmann turnaround, where the cars are reorientated to go back the other way, a steady line of people wait to hop on. Klussmann is honoured here for her part in leading the movement to protect the cable car in a growing push for moderation and electrification.

“It’s a monument,” says Tom Lauzze, a tourist I meet, of the cable cars. He’s here for a few days to escape wildfire smoke in other parts of the state. With him is Amy Sell, who says she lived in San Francisco around two decades ago and misses it deeply. “This is my favorite city in the world,” she says. “It just has that… European feel.”

That’s a common way of describing the place. It’s how I was told it would be before moving here. The least American of all of America’s cities, they say — a compliment or a put down depending on who is saying it. The city’s long history of liberalism and accepting all-comers, regardless of skin colour, status or sexual orientation, makes it shining beacon of acceptance not just in America but across the world.

And yet, a lot of hearts have been left here lately — an exodus prompted by Covid that poses a threat greater, perhaps, than anything that has come before it. On the cable car, at least, it’s easy and comforting to forget anything is amiss.

“San Francisco is the only city I can think of,” architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “that can survive all the things you people are doing to it and still look beautiful.”

’24-karat breakthrough’

I love the Popular Science print archive on Google Books. Exceptional writing about complex and exciting technologies; a magazine that rarely missed a pivotal moment.

Here’s an article from July 1970 heralding the first ever watch made without moving parts*. Its writer, Arthur Fisher, doesn’t fall short in telling readers the significance of what they’re about to read:

“Breakthrough. It’s a much-abused word–a pity at a time like this. Because here is a genuine, 24-karat breakthrough in timekeeping.”

The article then becomes a detailed explanation of precisely how the technology works, complete with a diagram of the circuitry. Fisher wraps it up in about 250 words, ending with the price: $1,500 — an eye-watering $10,000 in today’s money.

It’s fun to draw a line from this technology to something like the Apple Watch. Like Apple, the makers of the “Pulsar” decided it needed to conserve battery power by having it “light up only on demand”.

(* “unless you count the oscillations of its quartz crystal”, that is. Pop Sci’s attention to detail was always second-to-none.)

On influencer-journalists

If all or most journalists were columnists in the influencer-journalist vein, we would not get stories like The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files or The Information’s investigation into Apple’s secret deals with the Chinese government. Elizabeth Holmes wouldn’t be a convicted felon. We’d have remained in the dark about Donald Trump’s taxes—not to mention those of the hundreds of billionaires ProPublica exposed last year.

Jessica Lessin, writing in The Information, touching on an important point regarding the inherent weaknesses of influencer (or newsletter) journalism. As she notes, the model is enticing for all involved, readers included, but it can’t replace investigative work done by a large editorial body (and its expensive lawyers).

I’d also argue that the role of traditional broadcast media is underappreciated too. It may feel like a straightforward occurrence every time there is a speech/rally/whatever on television, but getting material out there requires nothing short of an army: the camera operator, the sat truck operator, the technicians, the producers, the reporters, the travel planners, the diary planners, the archivists and so on.

They’re all part of one big expensive puzzle that means you can, with one Google search, find footage of exactly what was said at any given event. In other words — we’re all in this together.

On background, the tech press needs its own correspondents’ association

Every now and then, a publication that covers tech news will step out and say “enough is enough” to the irritating tactics used by PR teams at most tech companies.

Most recently, it was The Verge, which announced an updated policy on the terms of “on background”, a most frustrating designation that sits between on and off the record: information that can be used, but usually not directly quoted, and in some cases you can’t reveal where it originated. Spin, in other words.

To emphasise its point, The Verge published a list of particularly absurd abuses of “on background”, with such gems as a delivery company going “on background” to talk about the popularity of fried chicken. I laughed because I recognised it — DoorDash had given me the same spiel too.

But there are more serious reasons why “on background” needs to stop. Take Amazon, which often uses it by default on issues firmly and urgently in the public interest: labour disputes, product safety, and the circumstances behind firing dissenting employees. 

So what can be done? The problem with The Verge’s approach, noble as it is, is that it’s mostly useless unless the rest of us join in. A handful will — and the post caused some reflection within the team I work in — but the depressing timeline from here on in, I predict, will be the gradual loosening of The Verge’s policy, before it ultimately succumbs to the norm when its editors see rivals getting stories out the door more quickly or with greater depth.

What’s needed is some unity and organisation. In Washington, the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) has a century-long tradition of upholding basic journalists standards and principles, so as not to allow any administration to play different outlets against others. It’s obviously not perfect, but it’s something — and no coincidence that its formation was prompted by a row over “off the record”. 

Whether through a lack of history or team spirit, the tech press has no equivalent group. Indeed, some among us are more than happy to capitalise on a publication’s upped standards by eagerly publicising their own, lower ones.

A tech correspondents’ association could solve several key issues. First, it could do something simple: define specifically what the terms “off the record” and “on background” mean to its members, with a nod to how it may be perceived in different markets.

Second, it can demand its members refuse “on background” unless in very narrow circumstances. Specifically, breaking news situations where a flack has useful information relating to an evolving story, but has not had the necessary approvals to share the information on the record… yet. An important principle here would be to perhaps treat such moments not as “on background” but as “pre-record”, and come down hard on companies that do not follow up officially within a reasonable timeframe.

Third, it can bring some much needed bargaining power to the tech press as a whole, pushing for basic principles for events — such as speaking out against companies, like Apple, that believe they can dictate which specific reporter at an outlet is permitted to cover a launch. 

The growth of newsletters makes the need for such a group even more pressing. Losing the shackles of the newsroom should not mean leaving standards behind. But faced with the financial pressures of going it alone, the temptation is understandably far greater.

Newsletter writers are therefore vital but vulnerable. A tech press association could maintain and enforce core standards. Even better, it could provide protection for the lone rangers with legal representation or advice. For those yet to get into the industry, it could, like the WHCA, provide resources and scholarships to help improve diversity and inclusivity among its ranks.

Finally, an effective tech correspondents’ association could provide a united front at a time when the tech press is under unprecedented attack, from companies like Facebook suggesting outlets have an ulterior motive when reporting on its failings, or the growing hostilities between venture capitalists and the reporters assigned to cover them.

The tech press has evolved in the past few years, from fawning to fighting, and unquestionably holds great power with subject matter that becomes more important to more and more people with every passing day. As we go on, a well-governed association is ultimately about gaining respect from two constituencies: earning it from readers, demanding it from tech companies. And then once a year we have a legendary party.