In search of: A Silicon Valley scandal, juicy and ripe

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Credit: Wikipedia

Apple did what? Microsoft said that? We've heard it all before, and now's the time to turn around the snoozefest known as tech news


I’ve nearly given up on a Pulitzer and not because I write like an eighth grader. It’s because you people aren’t giving me anything. I’ve sent uncounted emails to the Pulitzer committee, and they go a lot like this:

Subject: The Great American Story
Dear Pulitzer Committee:
This time I have it! Please contact me for further details!
-- RXC
p.s. No, really! This is it!!
Re: Subject: The Great American Story
Dear Robert:
Please stop sending us these emails. You write like an eighth grader.
-- The Pulitzer Committee
p.s. You really do write like an eighth grader because only eighth graders use double exclamation points, and only when tweeting. Grow up and stop drinking.

I’ve spent hours loitering on the Columbia University campus wearing tweed and a press badge and throwing deep, meaningful glances at anyone who even looked like faculty while scribbling in a notebook labeled “My big story” -- nothing. I track Pulitzer judges to their offices and show them drafts of my prose, and they all say, “I don’t think this qualifies as compelling news.” Also: “This definitely isn’t compelling news.” Finally: “Get out or I’ll call security.”

They’re right. I’ll never rate a Pulitzer not only because I have a middle school sense of humor, but because I’ll never get Pulitzer-grade news. I cover tech, which isn’t only boring to everyone except techies, it’s also more repetitive than a stock ticker on Saturday. There are only 10 basic headlines you’ll find in any tech news outlet:

Millions at risk from [nerd-scary code name] bug.
Hackers use [nerd-scary code name] bug to steal 20 billion credit card numbers from all businesses on Earth and Tatooine (because the Imperial Bank apparently doesn’t pay for data security either).
[Big tech industry segment] pays politicians to protect monopolistic business legislation while writing heartfelt Open Letters to the Country telling customers it’s in their best interests and to stop asking what “service charge” means.
[OS or software name] releases version 10, places version 11 into beta, puts version 12 into early alpha, and announces the development kickoff of version 13 with new features based on customer feedback from version 9. Then reveals 10-year-old root-access vulnerability in versions 5 through 12, though it’ll be removed in version 13. Probably. OK, maybe. OK, probably not, but it’s only because the NSA told us not to.
[Company (but mostly Apple)] announces consumer smart [whatever] device that looks the same as its analog incarnation only gaudier and costs three times as much, but can display your calendar via your [single mobile OS platform only, never a cross-platform standard], count how far you’ve walked today, and charge you some kind of monthly fee via [online service (but mostly iTunes)].
[Company (but mostly Microsoft)] announces the same thing as [company (but mostly Apple)] only less functional, less pretty, less fun, and somehow targeting enterprises, thus hoping for massive business-based licensing revenue and a monthly subscription fee via [other online service that almost no one uses or has even heard of].
[Tech billionaire] buys [something to validate his/her self-imagined non-nerd, celebrity persona] for $[mind-boggling, ridiculous number]. Spouse questions life choices.
[Tech billionaire or startup frat boy] says [something amazingly crass, stunningly arrogant, or downright sociopathic]. Avoids apologizing via Twitter. Spouse weeps while questioning life choices.
[Nonsensical startup name].com announces [social network/chat app/mobile game where cute things die]; breaks Kickstarter valuation in 20 minutes, reaches purchase agreement with Mark Zuckerberg for $20 billion based solely on revenue projections made while hammered.
[Government body] admits to [massively pervasive un-Constitutional privacy invasion] activity since Vint Cerf was an embryo. [Government body] doesn’t apologize, cites increasing foreign bad people threat. EFF analyzes long-term damage on tear-stained bar napkins. Fox News condemns EFF for its analysis and lack of gratefully blind patriotism. Everyone else, including bad people, plays [mobile game where cute things die].
[Mega tech company] forced to pay $[unjustifiably huge number] to patent troll who claims to hold rights over [technology], [other even more broadly used technology], [other practically ubiquitous technology], and soap. U.S. Patent Office raided for long-term illegal drug use.

That’s it. Maybe there are others, but they’re all variations on the same themes.

Step up, Silicon Valley

People, that’s not going to get me a medal. As members of the tech sector, we need to expand. Take a cue from the other tabs on Google News. It’s an easy fix if we all work together. Skim and you’ll quickly see why we’re so far behind.

Once again we’ve made ourselves the victims of our own antisocial tendencies. We’re missing out on two basic and key elements that make up at least 50 percent of all other news, and tellingly they’re the same two life elements that have been most troubling us since we hit puberty: sex and violence. I realize we’re nerds and because these things are difficult for us, we tend to commit both alone and online, but come on! If I’m going to get that Pulitzer before this shell of a carcass of mine implodes into crystallized scotch, we’ll have to sack up and leave the basement.

Tech may invent weapons, but as news grabbers go, we leave a ridiculously low body count. Xbox Live leaderboards don’t qualify. Man up and send me some tips, people! A Zuckerberg-hosted preteen fight club? The secret ComicCon cosplay purge? Silicon Valley startup fratters trading night clubbing for baby seal clubbing?

I know it’s going on, but you guys aren’t talking. And if it’s not, get out there and use your imagination. Floridians recently opened up Machine Gun America where 8-year-olds stop cuddling teddy bears and instead shoot them ... with Uzis. We are way behind! The Zuck promises to pay all legal fees for properly verified, nerd-centric bloodshed. Really, he does.

When it comes to sex scandals, we have even more work to do. Before you tell me I’m wrong, remember that anonymous, sexually harassing Gamergate tweets don’t count. Admittedly, we don’t have the most attractive people -- they end up in sports and entertainment. But business and politics have plenty of sex scandals committed by wrinkled old codgers like me, so I know it can be done.

We have the resources

We simply need to tap into the same resources as Bill Clinton and Mark Hurd: interns, terrorized subordinates, and gold diggers. We have plenty of those, so there’s no reason I couldn’t cover at least one rooftop orgy a month -- or a juicy divorce. I know it’s way out of our wheelhouse, but we can start slow. Maybe a marital indiscretion between billionaires? A little streaking? A wardrobe malfunction? Give me something!

I know we’re comfortable pursuing our own missions, but let’s be honest: What’s enabling global Internet communication compared to a good nightclub shooting? What’s defending and/or trashing civil liberties in the digital age against a really high-rez nip slip? I think I’ve made my point. Now get out there and cause some chaos, so I can be insightful, snag my prize, and let someone else pay for drinks.

[RIP L.N.]

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