A Call for Ethical IT Selling: Part One – Don’t Become a News Network

I recently had the opportunity to listen to a riveting keynote given by Ted Koppel at the Symantec Symposium in Washington, DC. Yes, Ted Koppel the journalist spoke at a technology conference, and was by far one of the best reasons to be there.

Mr. Koppel started his discussion by giving the audience an overview of the evolution of broadcast journalism. He described the way early news bureaus established a local presence in the areas they reported on. Those bureaus were filled with experts on the area and its concerns, and in concert with the network news desks, focused their attentions on what they thought the people needed to know. If a story couldn’t be confirmed by a bureau, the news desk didn’t report it.

As network news matured, CBS experimented with a new program and format that launched the 60 Minutes news program in 1968. While it still presented news the public needed to know, it did so through a more investigative approach. Its tone, subject matter, and top-notch reporting led it to be something no other news program before it had been.

As those of us who have been in operational IT understand, once the concept of “profit” is introduced, a lot of things go straight down the rabbit hole.  Well, the same thing started within the broadcast news ecosystem. According to Mr. Koppel, soon after the idea that televised news could be profitable hit, the accountants started asking why regular news wasn’t making a profit and what could be done to help it get there. First came the cuts – and regional news bureaus took that hit first as many of them were shut down. In turn, we now have reporters who have been tossed on a plane and sent to a country they know nothing about and report on news they don’t understand. Hey, but they look good in that flak jacket right?

Next Mr. Koppel described the perfect storm: The deregulation of key FCC oversights mixed with the ingenuity of American capitalism, all fueled by changes in communication technology. No longer taxed with close observation on exactly what they had to report on and how, it didn’t take long for the networks to understand that there is a difference between what people need and what they want. Within 10 years –  born from the ashes of the journalistic codes of practice –  entire broadcast networks rose up that were blatantly skewed in their reporting.  Not only were these new “news” networks tolerated by the people, they were embraced by the people as they represented a “truth” that resonated with their wants and beliefs - not a more complicated, accurate, and often less black-and-white reality.

The point that Mr. Koppel settled on in this fascinating history lesson was, like broadcast news, IT security, as well as, the IT press and consulting machine need to be aware that real harm can be fostered by paying too much attention to what is wanted, as opposed to what is needed.

In my next post, I explain a new vision for IT consulting and reporting.

Photo courtesy of 123rf.com