Marketwatch Gets It Right: Google’s Free Ride in the Press

I often say “[X] will happen the same day that the Wall Street Journal criticizes Google”…meaning never. I’m not the only one noticing. Excellent commentary from John Dvorak at Marketwatch on the subject entitled “Does Google have an Achilles’ heel? Tech giant and its weaknesses are sheltered by media.”

I have heard for quite some time that any reporter who publishes an article criticle of Google can expect their editor to get a threatening call from the Google PR department. Nowhere is this more obvious than when Eric Schmidt got his panties in a bunch over a CNET reporter “googling” Eric Schmidt and discovering pubicly

available information about Schmidt through Google. Whatever information was disclosed in that search was information the Chief No-Evil Doer wanted to be kept quiet–he banned CNet reporters from all Google facilities and events for a year (presumably all CNet reporters other than Declan McCullough, who’s wife is a Google employee and who presumably holds Google stock options under California’s community property laws). And he got away with it. Did the Wall Street Journal rush to the aid of their colleagues in the press? I guess that would violate the “Do no evil to Google” policy.

But of course, reporters saw what happened when one of their own dared to actually do some journalism rather than dutifully regurgitate the party line. You would have thought that someone in the press would have asked what was so important about the information that CNET found out to justify getting grounded for a year? Or was it as simple as Schmidt wanted it to appear? I guess we’ll never know.

The reporting on the Google version of the DMCA (the “catch us if you can” theory accepted uncritically by the Generation L journalists who cover the company), has been just this side of dreadful and often just this side of wrong. The kind of slightly wrong that throws the weight of the article to Google, but that will not be caught by anyone who hasn’t at least read the safe harbor provisions of the Copyright Act. It has largely ignored Google’s exposure in jurisdictions where no DMCA-type safe harbors exist or where no “private copy” laws obtain. This is just bad reporting. One thing that Rupert Murdoch will bring to the Wall Street Journal, one hopes, is a more balanced international view of companies like Google that are increasingly trying to change the laws upon which media companies have relied for centuries.

As Dvorak writes “…[I]s there an Achilles’ heel at Google? Many exist, but are firmly protected as long as the company is propped up by a fawning uncritical media that present the company as the darlings of Silicon Valley and some sort of bastion against the barbarians in Redmond.
It’s all image. It’s all good.”

Kind of like helping out the Chinese government, I guess.

Dvorak isn’t the only one who got this story right–CNet writer Charles Cooper summed it all up very nicely:

“For most of his tenure, Google CEO Eric Schmidt has had an easy time of it. If he’s as good a manager as his press clips claim, now he’ll have a chance to earn that reputation. History may not repeat itself exactly but if the economy slips further, a lot of companies will suffer more pain before the selling comes to an end.

Including Google.”

There was a time when nobody thought Martha Stewart would do time or that Cisco would trade below $20.