I've just been the victim of some anonymous drive-by journalism from PC Magazine, and it's left a bad taste in my mouth.

My post "XP SP2 RTMs!" is getting a lot of traffic, thanks to an article that PC Magazine published yesterday called "WinXP SP2 Auto Updates Available Now—For Some" (this article has also been syndicated via Ziff Davis to Extreme Tech and Yahoo News). The article is kind of amusing, since it makes a big deal about how Microsoft hasn't said exactly when automatic updates will reach our customers, but that the heroic and intrepid journalist has found "indications from ... a Microsoft developer's blog" to pass on to their breathless readers. The blog they link to is mine, natch. Sadly, the journalist didn't bother following the link to Michael Swanson's blog, where the information actually came from. If they'd done that, they might have had to quote the bit where he said this was "from a customer-ready email".

Now, they could have started from my blog post and written a thoughtful article about bandwidth, and petabits, and download throttling, and how this all means that we literally cannot say exactly when automatic updates will reach any particular customer. But that might not be controversial enough for them - and controversy is what generates readers and hence ad traffic (hey Scoble, why isn't this observation in your Corporate Weblog Manifesto?). To create a controversial news article from the SP2 dates they needed two things:

  • A Microsoft blog that posts the dates without the "from a customer-ready email" quote (me)
  • A Microsoft spokesperson to refuse comment (OHMYGODITSACONSPIRACY)

Voila! Instant "scoop", and lots of readers for them.

But the bit that really leaves a nasty taste in my mouth is that the whole article is anonymous. No journalist's name, no email link, no editor's address to send a quick "hey, do you ever bother with fact-checking?" note to, nothing. So I'm inviting whoever wrote that article to step right up and explain their methods and intentions in doing so.

In the meantime, I'm going to go read the online version of Dan Gillmor's latest book "We The Media" about the colliding futures of journalism and blogging. Recommended.