July 24, 2004

Why NewsForge doesn't publish only pro-FOSS stories

Author: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

Some of our readers seem to feel NewsForge should only publish or link to stories that boost free and open source software. We disagree. While NewsForge editors are generally pro-FOSS, our job is to present a complete picture of what is going on with free and open source software, not just the positive side.Over the last 20 years we've seen a growing trend in news media toward viewpoint fragmentation, and the niche-filling nature of the Internet has aggravated this tendency by several orders of magnitude. It is now possible to get all your U.S. political news from sources that take George W. Bush's every word as gospel truth, and just as possible to get all your news from sources that assume President Bush lies every time he opens his mouth. Extremism in the pursuit of extremism has become an end in itself. Anyone who doesn't agree with "us" is wrong and biased, for any value of "us."

Not knowing what other people are thinking is a sure route to narrow-mindedness and meaningless conflict. It also leads to ineffective advocacy. How can you change someone's mind unless you have an idea what else they're hearing and where their (no doubt wrong) ideas came from?

I've gone to IT executives' conferences where hardly anyone in attendance had used Linux or was even interested in trying it, since they all knew it was a clunky hobbyists' operating system with no graphical admin or user-level interface, so it could only be managed by overpaid, hard-to-find Unix admins who would come to work in sandals and treat everyone else in the place as an inferior being.

This point of view may not be true, but it is not uncommon. If the only conferences you attend are LWCE, OSCON, and other open source cheering sessions, it can be hard to realize that you are part of a small minority of computer users. And if the only stories you read about Linux have headlines like Desktop Linux making strides in financial services sector, your point of view is not mainstream reality.

Knowledge is good

At NewsForge, we hold this truth to be self-evident: What we like and what is are not necessarily the same. We believe that the more you know, the better off you are both personally and professionally. Not everything you need to know will make you happy, but knowing that unpleasant facts (and widely-believed lies) exist is better than putting your hands over your ears and singing, "La, la, la, I can't hear you," every time someone says something that contradicts your beliefs.

So, like it or not, we will always run some stories with which you don't agree (for any value of "you"). We will continue to publish news, analysis, and commentary about Linux and open source, but will not promise that every story we run will boost Linux and open source. Our job is to inform and enlighten our readers, not to be cheerleaders.

In fact, as far as we know not a single NewsForge editor or regular freelance contributor even owns a cheerleading uniform; we leave that to American Cheerleader, a magazine that, unlike NewsForge, you can search all day long without finding a single word about Linux.

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