Commenting on a meeting of his developer and platform team at Microsoft, Joshua Allen said “everyone on the team is an nth-degree blackbelt, mountain climber, famous artist and poker champ. One nice thing about having a median age about 10 years older than the median GOOG employee age is that our overachievers have had 10 years extra to add lines on the resume. ”
His popular Better Living through Software blog has neat insights into Microsoft, but another comment he made today, on journalism, got my hackles up. I felt as software developers probably do when they read a newspaper story that makes a false and misleading assumption about their profession.
In a comment on the fiasco over Hewlett-Packard misappropriating reporters’ phone records, Allen said, “I challenge any of these oh-so-sanctimonious journalists to prove that they never used pretexting for any of their investigative journalism.”
While they’re at it, the reporters should prove they’ve never beaten their wives.
This is a digression, but I’ve never heard of any reporter using pretexting. It’s a slimy tactic and the information gained wouldn’t be worth the effort and ethical taint. A list of phone calls may be useful to a corporate leak investigation or a prosecutor, but reporters want to know what was said and why.
Decent, professional reporters don’t lie about their identity to obtain personal records. Really, it’s not like the “Rockford Files.”
Reporters are also wary of their stories suffering the fate of the Cincinnati Enquirer’s 1998 notorious expose of Chiquita Banana’s business practices. The reporter’s allegations of Chiquita’s misconduct were confirmed in part by access he gained to the corporation’s voice mail system.
That gave Chiquita leverage against the Enquirer and its corporate parent, Gannett, which ended up apologizing for the series and paying Chiquita $10 million to avoid a lawsuit over the phone system intrusion. Worst of all, a little sketchy reporting enabled Chiquita to discredit the entire story.
Microsofties can probably sympathize — if a few bugs are found in 50 million lines of code, people stop talking about the program’s overall quality.
Bottom line, no pretexting here. But I did look twice at our janitor after reading the latest stories about HP’s skulduggery.