Monday, March 03, 2014

A speech is not a story just because it's a speech

Really, it's too much. As in, Officially Too Much. The toad-eating supineness of the Australian tech press has me sick to the gullet.

Ever since the mid-1990s, nearly every tech journalist in the world has coveted both the credibility and the pay packet of the Real Business Journalist. See, you can take any press-ganged loser from the tech press, slide them into a job with (say) the Australian Financial Review, and effectively double their income.

A douche with a tech masthead is one-half a douche in business media. That's the cold equation that makes the tech press wank and dribble to prove their worth in front of suits, all the world over.

And it's really, really easy to make a tech journalist make them think they're AFR-fodder: expose them to suits.

Get a tech journalist in front of a speech by a CEO – or even better, to the extent of “do you need a towel sir?”, an interview with a CEO – and you have a stenographer.

Drop on a lunch with free booze and they'll use the table-napkin in place of the towel.

As far as I can see from what I've read from the speech Telstra's CEO, David Thodey, gave today, he said nothing remarkable. He delivered a boilerplate piece that had been written by one hand, PR-tested by another, market-tested by another, and lawyered by another. Four hands on one wank, which should say something but probably doesn't.

It's like a cornflake, really: telling the nutritional value between the speech and the paper it was written on would get you down to quantum physics.

But journalists present at the speech have things to prove: (1) it's worth my absence from the office; (2) I'm a journalist who can report a speech; and (3) I can extract nourishment out of the cardboard, if need be.

Thodey. Said. Nothing.

Nothing new, nothing of note, nothing of value, nothing that wouldn't worry some investors, nothing that wouldn't make some market smart-alecks think they had an inside run on some kind of information.

Because that, dear media, is his job. Never, ever do anything but reassure the investors.

Really: if David Thodey says “Telstra wants to be more intimate with its customers” – the only aspect worth reporting is that it's a statement of such visceral creepiness that you'd bloody sign on with Vodafone to avoid it.

If he says he's going to “protect shareholder value”, it's both his obligation and a repetition of the same chorus he's sung throughout his whole incumbency.

He said “digital first”? In case you idiots weren't watching, the entire Telstra network went digital while you were anticipating your first date. Like, that was 1990s news kiddies.

The customer is number one?” – I've never known of a Telstra CEO who didn't manage some variation on that theme. And my history of Telstra goes back to the late 1980s when it was still “Telecom”.

I'm sick utterly to my epiglottis with the idea that “a speech is a story merely because it was given”. What, the CEO didn't fall over on the stairs, declare himself a communist, come out in front of an audience, or grope the nearest biped before he came on stage? He just stood behind a microphone and read a script?

That's a speech. It's not a story. Save me.

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