November 19, 2003

Not for Sale

Nick Confessore in the Washington Monthly is making a fuss out of the fact that Tech Central Station gets money from corporate sponsors, and that TCS sometimes publishes pieces that favor the positions of those sponsors.

Since I sometimes write for Tech Central Station, let me just say a couple of things.

First of all, no one on this Earth tells me what to think or what to write. That includes Nick Shulz, the editor of Tech Central Station. It also includes Halliburton. None of Dick Cheneyís old pals call me up at home and tell me what to say about Iraq or anything else.

I write for TCS freelance. That means I pitch my own ideas to the magazine.

My pieces get edited and Nick asks me to approve the changes. I donít always like the changes he makes, so then we discuss it. Sometimes he convinces me that itís better this way or that, and other times I convince him that his edits werenít for the best. Itís a give and take, a healthy editing process, and nothing with my name on it gets published without my consent.

Any suggestion, implicit or otherwise, that TCS articles are vetted by its corporate sponsors is silly. None of my articles have had anything to do with any TCS sponsors in the first place, but thatís not true of every piece published there. Daniel Drezner says one of his articles directly contradicts the agenda of a TCS sponsor.

This, I think, is Confessoreís point in a nutshell:

[I]t's only human nature to put more trust in the arguments of seemingly independent observers than those of paid agents of an interested party. And that's why a journalist willing to launder the arguments of corporations and trade groups would be so valuable. A given argument, coming from such a journalist, would have more impact than precisely the same case articulated by a corporate lobbyist.

I agree. However, TCS is pretty up front about its biases; its writers are social/economic libertarians and foreign policy hawks. Glenn Reynolds, who also writes for them, agrees (in Daniel Drezner's comments):

It's a libertarian policy webzine, so it (mostly) publishes libertarian policy stuff, with occasional pieces by conservatives and liberals.
Tech Central Station does not claim to be ďfair and balanced.Ē They donít promise ďall the news thatís fit to print.Ē

Nor do I.

I think you should take TCSís biases, sponsors, and agenda into account, and you ought do the same when listening NPR and Rush Limbaugh. But it isnít worth making a big deal out of it unless TCS, like Fox News, decides to pretend itís impartial.

UPDATE: Pejman has a roundup of responses from other Tech Central Station writers. None of us are particularly impressed with Mr. Confessore's piece, and everyone's experience seems to be rather like mine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 19, 2003 7:03 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member


"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere

Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com

News Feeds


Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button


Tip Jar


Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn