Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why is news coverage of patent reform so bad?

Ever wonder why news coverage of patent reform is so bad?

Back in April 2009, Joff Wild at IAM wrote, in the context of press coverage of IP:

So having said that, it is also important to stress that journalists can only learn if they are taught. If a story breaks at, say, 1.00 pm and your deadline is, say, 6.00 pm and you have to write, say, 500 words in a way that will make your story more appealing to the editor than the one your colleague is putting together across the desk (essentially, that means convincing the editor your piece will resonate with the readership more than the other one), then you only have so much time to do the research and to find out what is what. If you make a couple of calls and you get a "no comment", or a "I'll have to call you back", or someone starts spouting legalese at you - and, believe me, all three scenarios are extremely common - then you just do not have the luxury of spending an hour or two on the internet working out how a brand is different to a copyright. You just have to go with your hunch. That is the reality.

Turning the above text into real reality:

Journalists are taught to sell a story. They hype its conclusions, misconstrue study findings, take things out of context, and generally do whatever it takes to catch your eye to get you to read a story. Occasionally they go too far.
[from fark]

In the patent reform context, "catching the eye" is facilitated by talk of doom and gloom and the end of innovation.

Separately, one has an alignment of the business interests of the big IT folks (who need a particular patent landscape to do really well, a landscape different from that of big pharma) with the business interests of certain professors, who have books to sell and careers to promote. In this sense, much "news" on patent reform is really that of an Unpaid Placement Masquerading as an Actual News Article As fark would note, these are "news items" which are commercials in disguise. They're not necessarily bought and paid for in payola-type situations, but they amount to lobbying or book selling more than objective reporting of news.

An odd example of a propaganda item masquerading as "news" was the piece by Eli Kinitisch in Science on the rules on patent continuations. It was placed in the "news of the week" section, although it reflected no "news" which had happened in the past week (or month). More importantly, the piece was not accurate. although it probably caused many scientists to think negatively about the current patent system.
Kintisch article in Science challenged in Sept. 06 JPTOS

See also

To get the press to take the IP world seriously, the IP world must take the press seriously

Remember - the relationship between the IP world and the mainstream media is unequal

BUT as fark notes, mainstream media NEED news sources:

Nowadays cable news networks have to scramble to have something to talk about for twenty-four hours a day, even when nothing of important is going on. Sales departments are still selling advertisements, after all. Mass Media can't just run content made entirely of ads (with the possible exception of the Home Shopping Network). Something has to fill the space.

Over the years Mass Media has developed several methods of filling this space. No one teaches this in journalism school; odds are Mass Media itself hasn't given much thought to the process.

But the reality will always be: talk of impending tragedy, and solutions thereto, will inevitably beat out reasoned explanations of why things really are not collapsing around us.

[Remember Quillen and Webster's 97% patent grant rate and remember Eli Kintisch's "News of the Week"?]

**UPDATE. from Lazy Journalists are the Darlings of Corporations

Lazy journalists are great friends of the corporations. They are known as "armchair journalists" because they sit in comfort and rewrite press releases from politicians and corporations. To spice it up a bit, they dial a few numbers, get a few comments and call it a news story.


Blogger Joshua said...

I too have seen numerous news reports that are misinformed and publish opinions with far less than an understanding of the interests at stake. The proposed changes to patent reform are important and since not everyone has time to do their own research, media should take their responsibility to provide the public with information more seriously. For more on the patent reform and its related issues, see

9:45 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home