Marissa’s Mean And Kevin’s A Quitter: The Tech Press Shineth

The tech press must be all hopped up over the first few episodes of The Newsroom. Defenders of truth and protectors of the masses and all that.

Because they’re out opining on this and that with more than the usual amount of condescension and self righteousness this week.

Marissa Mayer is a “tyrant” with a penchant for humiliating colleagues, says Business Insider.

“Spot on” says another journalist who’s totally miffed she didn’t scoop the original story, and taking heat from readers in her own comment section.

And then doing it again when she was unable to scoop the pregnancy story, either (and commenters calling her on it).

There’s two of the towering laws of journalism in all their glory. Balance, meaning let’s find people who’ll say something negative about someone to balance things out (and winners always have haters). And Objectivity, meaning a pissed off journalist can rant at will because of course they’re not biased. Even if they are.

And then I read another article about how Kevin Rose is essentially a spoiled quitter, and how that doomed his startups and frustrated those around him.

“Just read a negative article criticizing me as an entrepreneur from someone that has never started a company,” responded Rose.

And Rose is quite right. Because not only was this story another example of cruising the losers for a juicy sound bite, but it was also written by someone who’s never been in the trenches at a startup. Who has no idea what he’s talking about.

Every once in a while I pull out the Man In The Arena quote because it reminds us of what’s really going on.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

People are out there trying to create things out of absolutely nothing. Which is hard. And messy.

And the press, needed desperately to defend the people, drum up all this bullshit based on some anonymous source who’s had their feelings hurt along the way, or had to work too hard, or whatever.

Too often the press is just a big pack of deadweight loss insecure scavengers running around yelling “look at me!”

People can’t help but read this stuff because it’s so scandalous. But what really bugs me is that so many of these journalists act this way while telling themselves, desperately, that they’re doing good. Important things. Fourth estate stuff.

You want an angle on a story? I can find someone to give me that angle if I want to. But what’s far more interesting is the truth.

Omelettes are being made, people. Stop focusing on the broken eggs.

Because if you find yourself having a hissy fit because someone else got to break a story about someone being pregnant, and then tainting your stories based on that fit, you should really be put in a time out.

Update: I just announced on TechCrunch that I’ll be interviewing Marissa on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in a few weeks. I can guarantee that we’ll be talking about meatier subjects than her pregnancy PR choices and how many people in her past thought she was mean to them.

39 thoughts on “Marissa’s Mean And Kevin’s A Quitter: The Tech Press Shineth

  1. Jon Lerner says:

    Too often the press is just a big pack of deadweight loss insecure scavengers running around yelling “look at me!”

    Thanks Mike for sparing us from MG the writer.

  2. love the quote – “Omelettes are being made, people. Stop focusing on the broken eggs.”

  3. “By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize other’s work and belittle their motivations?”- Steve Jobs

  4. judsonc says:

    “By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize other’s work and belittle their motivations?” — Steve Jobs

  5. Well said Mike.

    I was pretty irked by the BI story on Kevin and it evoked the same response as Kevin’s Tweet. If we continue down this path, tech journalism would soon be like TMZ or PerezHilton. We deserve better.

  6. Well said Mike.

    I was pretty irked by the BI story on Kevin and it evoked the same response as Kevin\’s Tweet. If we continue down this path, tech journalism would soon be like TMZ or PerezHilton. We deserve better.

  7. So, only those on the sector can make any commentary? Does this hold true for other markets? Politics? Media?

    That seems… short-sighted.

    • David Callahan says:

      @M.H. Williams (@AutomaticZen)

      …short-sighted? Why? It used to be called “Common Sense.”
      Now, “journalists,” [even from J-school…] HAVE to offer their “OPINION” even when they are totally clueless… but they do it over and over and over again, showing every time that they are unmitigated jackasses…

  8. I am really annoyed by the need to talk about things we don’t know anything about firsthand. My own management style left something to be desired, because I wanted to get things done, so I sympathize with Marissa. I’m sure I have lots of former employees calling me a biiiiiatch. About Kevin, I’d only say “you do it. Then tell me again what Kevin did wrong?”

  9. lynx77 says:

    This isn’t the age old arguement that you can’t critercise someone unless you’ve done it better than them is it? That’s bollocks. The press are there to keep everyone honest, politicians, sports people and even entrepreneurs. The person writing the article doesn’t have to have been president, won the super bowl or founded a company to have an opinion on something.

  10. I often agree with you but here in don’t:

    “And Rose is quite right. Because not only was this story another example of cruising the losers for a juicy sound bite, but it was also written by someone who’s never been in the trenches at a startup. Who has no idea what he’s talking about.”

    In 99,9 percent of the cases, journalists (or bloggers who work like journalists) write about issues that they haven’t experienced by themselves. So for one, this argument is too universal, and second, it might actually be a good thing. Sometimes those who are too deeply involved with something have a hard time seeing how outsiders might perceive things.

    I don’t refer to the Kevin Rose story but I mean in general, saying that a journalist has no idea what he/she is talking about because he/she never experienced it isn’t a good counter-argument. Except if it’s your intention to tell 99,9 percent of journalists that they have no idea what they are righting about ;)

  11. Make it “writing” instead of “righting”

  12. Will Arrington says:

    preach

  13. Ask her about the interview. What did she say she would do? And, now that she’s been on the job a while, can she still do it? Or is the strategy now different? (The ability of a CEO to think on their feet and be willing to adjust to circumstance is important, don’t you think?)

  14. Joshua Bolin says:

    So for what it is worth I actually printed out the BI article on Kevin- thumbtacked it to the wall of my ‘war room’. Not in schadenfreude but as a inspirational reminder that ‘you’ are not alone. That the true entrepreneur’s brain is in fact wired differently.

    Internally, being a world class entrepreneur is not too dissimilar than being a world class athlete. You have to see the world or playing field differently than those around you. Naturally, you do not have to be motivated- it is inherent you want to be the absolute best. Forsaking all else to become number 1 or to win that market. Both, unconsciously, are turning into a machine that can turn out product. The entrepreneur produces ideas. The athlete produces great moments that others talk about.

    Where these two diverge has always been perception from the consuming public.

    Even though I have won state championships in baseball- I, and everyone associated with me KNOWS that I could not hold the jock strap of Derek Jeter as the short stop of the Yankees. I swim but would never race Michael Phelps. Because these things are physical we and those around us understand limitations. What is not understood is the hard work it takes to stay at a competitive level.

    In the 70’s our country took a wrong turn. Popular propaganda was that we were all mentally created equally. That somehow, genetically speaking, we all have the same capacity and that our mental ability and output was the same. Synapses would be the same and the only people who would get ahead are those that cheated or maliciously held back someone else.

    Because we understand the physical limitations and not the mental ones people do not realize the actual scarcity of mental talent it would take to turn around a company like Yahoo or create (before their time) awesome products that the world will love and use. So we don’t object when Drew Brees signs for $100mm but let the pretty blond cheerleader from Wisconsin make that amount turning around a company and you can predict the headline(s). It is assumed you can not throw the ball like Drew but EVERYONE knows what is wrong with Yahoo so how hard could it actually be(?).

    The press is the press. And too often they act like blisters- show up when the work is done. Thankfully- places like Techcrunch where I have had the chance to meet some fantastic entrepreneurial writers- that is not the case. They understand the hard work involved. Others- not so much.

    An ideas person can no sooner divorce themselves from ideas than they can the oxygen they breathe. The battle is with self; knowing that it takes people who can execute that in fact you can not do everything on your own.

    Despite people not understanding *what* they do- Kevin and Marissa have made the world a better place. Two cheers Mike for defending your friends.

  15. Scott Yates says:

    I’m reminded of the scene near the end of “The Paper” when the editor is trying to explain that covering people can create jealousy. He tells the story about a bunch of writers were at a fancy restaurant, and the bill came and it was way over everyone’s expense account. An old guy at the next table heard the commotion, and paid the whole bill. It was Pablo Picasso. “That napkin paid our bill. The people we cover, we move in their world, but it is their world.” Some people get that, and others just get bitter about it because they know they’ll never really have what it takes to move into that other world.

  16. John says:

    Just my opinion, but I thought the article on Marissa wasn’t ‘mean’ like you are suggesting. To me it just simply read that some folks have a different view of her mgmt style. That’s it. I actually liked that they tried to explain that some of the feedback was from people who worked with her long ago and that she may have been different back then. If anything, I’d be surprised if those views *didn’t* exist (and I can’t help but wonder if the clubby world of SV bloggers / writers doesn’t contribute to that?).
    Do you know of many very successful managers who are universally loved by everyone they’ve ever worked with? I don’t. Give us readers a bit of faith.

    If anything, I was expecting more journalists to write about her mgmt style / her mgmt experience. All I read is the same ol ‘responsible for UI on the google page’ ‘office hours’ ‘ cupcakes’ ‘fashion’ ‘ smart/works hard’. As public companies, it’d be better to hear about real mgmt wins that this exec has had, as well as – and more importantly – failures and struggles, than this crap. Also, dig for past scenarios where an early-employee of company A jumps to lead a competitor. Precedent? How’s that worked out?
    ok, i need to go as i’ve done enough of you bloggers/journalist’s job today.

  17. Peter Mullen says:

    Day 3 Marissa Watch. 174 more pointless articles/blogposts. Countless hours wasted have to scroll past said worthlessness. Thanks for the post Michael.

  18. I just read the Swisher articles. Amazed at the % of negative comments – she was definitely on the defensive. I wonder if she’ll think, “maybe, since all these people are saying I’m bitter, I….am”?

  19. Tim Cook says:

    AND HOW! Thanks Mike. Love the omlet bit!

  20. I expected more from US press. Guess bad press can be found everywhere. I hope Marissa will be allowed to do great work at Yahoo. I still have an Y! Mail address so please don’t do anything bad with it, Marissa :D

  21. Fucking applause. I read this just after getting sucked into a mailing list debate over Ms. Mayer. All time wasted that I could have spent writing code and getting one day closer to beta. They not only waste their own time, they waste ours.

  22. David Darshowitz says:

    I’m sorry, but Kevin Rose argument is we can’t judge the president since we haven’t been presidents, or we can judge a police officer since we haven’t been police officers. And we can’t judge the bankers since we have never been bankers. That’s the logic of a loser.
    If the article is false – sue the bastards. If you don’t then whining about it only make it more popular.
    And in the tech scene people are 99% of the startups are not saving lives or bringing justice to the world – most of them make useless features for mankind. So it’s not omelettes being made and don’t look at the eggs.
    It’s better for the scene to just calm down with their attitude and carry on.

    • Michael Arrington says:

      That’s specious. If a reporter who isn’t an entrepreneur wants to opine on someone they should go ahead and do that. But when they argue through anonymous sources it just becomes a big pile of nothing. To an untrained reader, or a dumb one, it seems so legitimate and journalistic. When in fact it’s at least sloppy, and likely fabricated, and entirely cowardly.

  23. ChrisH says:

    So, if a reporter has never played quarterback in the NFL, then the reporter can’t write an article criticizing Tom Brady?

    • Michael Arrington says:

      the problem is the reporter is writing an article criticizing Tom Brady based on something a friend of one of his neighbors supposedly said anonymously after watching a game on tv. That’s not reporting. That’s making shit up.

      • ChrisH says:

        The reporter that wrote the article on Kevin Rose gave the entire story of Kevin’s career. It wasn’t made up shit. It looks like he researched the story pretty accurately. Kevin’s response on Twitter (“Just read a negative article criticizing me as an entrepreneur from someone that has never started a company,”) sounds exactly like an athlete that’s been called out in the media and doesn’t like it. If he disagreed with the reporter’s analysis then take him to task for that, but don’t try to discredit the story and the reporter because he hasn’t started a business.

        • David Darshowitz says:

          That’s exactly what I’ve said. If you want to say that a sh** article, fine say it. But critisizing the person who wrote it personally, just make you believe more that without a good PR guy, Kevin Rose is just another hyped spooled techie.

          • Michael Arrington says:

            A journalist can use anonymous (or made up) sources to criticize people, but somehow when someone (me) writes a non anonymous response that’s not ok. Journalists have the thinnest skin in the universe, and they attack from behind this shield of supposed objectivity and balance.

            If the journalist wants to call Rose names, he or she should just do an op-ed and do it.

          • David Darshowitz says:

            You can comment as much as you like. But unless you or Rose has any proof that this was all made up by the journalist, it’s stays as your opinion. If Rose think that the journalist made the things up – so why don’t he sues him? Why doesn’t he put his money where his mouth his?
            So far that seems like someone wrote something on one of the valley most cherished “press heroes” so everyone comes to his defense.

          • Michael Arrington says:

            I wonder how you’d respond if people were anonymously criticizing you, it got mainstream blog attention, and I were to say tough luck, “unless you have any proof that this was all made up.”

            The point here isn’t that it was made up, or just anonymous bitching. It’s that the whole process of printing anonymous gossip about people twists these ridiculous “laws” of journalism into parodies of themselves.

  24. I read the Kevin Rose piece and what I gleaned was that he knows how to build products that build companies, He has a penchant for UX and function. And he got handcuffed by his board when he wanted to sell. Sucks, but OK.

    We all have things we are better at than others. Maybe he doesn’t like being a COO. Fine. Some people like that are are good at it, some don’t and aren’t. I’d certainly take his advice on making our product better.

  25. B.L. Ochman says:

    “You want an angle on a story? I can find someone to give me that angle if I want to. But what’s far more interesting is the truth.”

    – Spot on, But, it seems to me that’s how most mainstream media stories are crafted. And then called news.

  26. Jebb Dykstra says:

    When billions of dollars, are at stake, the tech leadership (like Marissa, Kevin and you and many others) have now joined the world of celebrities. On many levels it sucks to be a celebrity. I agree with you that the haters should shut up, but they won’t. You know they won’t, especially after your CNN situation.

    You guys are at the top of the pyramid. You guys are king/queen-makers It’s not easy putting up with the unfair comments/criticisms. But anything else is misplaced expectations. But you should be able to vent and that’s what this column seems – a good vent. By the way, expect paparazzi next. Have you seen the cars and cameras outside Buck’s? They’re coming!

  27. al gonequinn says:

    as someone who was there, the businessinsider article falls directly in line with what i saw.

  28. David Callahan says:

    … it has been a while, but this is still valid: at two different times, I had journalists [one from the Washington Post] come to my office for interviews — Did not want to do this, but finally agreed at the insistence of a close relative. I do not speak to this relative anymore.
    Anyway, both experiences were unpleasant, to say the least. They were somewhat “professional” subtly hinting that they, as “journalists” had influence and power. The power of the written word…
    I made a real effort to be polite and, yes, professional, although I wanted to kick them out of my office as soon as they walked in… To make this story short, learning later that they were [both, different newspapers] about to publish a bunch of lies about me personally and about my companies, I engaged my lawyers, who were very effective… while clearly communicating to management of both publications that if these characters were not stopped, multimillion lawsuits would be filed immediately against them [my lawyers already had copies of what was going to be published…]
    These journalists “expert” knowledge of the IT industry was that both of them use Facebook and Twitter…
    I despise journalists, but I think of them as a somewhat necessary evil: although they produce trash, they, regrettably, are just as useful as trash collectors…

  29. Chenyu says:

    Reblogged this on Been there, Done that and commented:
    thanks @arrington for this post.

  30. EmilyQuestions says:

    Good post @Arrington. I enjoyed The Man in the Arena.

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