Learning to Live With Mark Zuckerberg
“Both journalists and tech executives are guilty of thinking Twitter is more important than it is,” Ms. Lessin said. “The tech executives are taking journalists’ tweets too seriously in many cases — but at the same time, it’s hard to build any professional relationship with someone who’s attacking you publicly all day long.”
I’m not sure it’s always quite as symmetrical as Ms. Lessin believes. Silicon Valley ideology sometimes lines up too conveniently with its profits to be taken entirely at face value. And the industry’s scale and power are unmatched.
Ms. Lessin also noted that journalists and the tech giants are stuck with one another at this point. Higher-ups in Silicon Valley, led by an influential Facebook board member, Marc Andreessen, have spent years floating fantasies of replacing the adversarial news media and appealing directly to their consumers and investors. But they have yet to come up with a platform that allows them to outdo the independent news outlets when it comes to communicating with their own employees, much less the general public.
Mr. Andreessen’s venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, invested in the social audio platform Clubhouse in that hope, only to see it fade into an obscure global home for multilevel marketing discussions. The company also started a media platform, Future, amid nervous newsroom chatter that the tech industry “no longer needs” journalists. Several months in, Future threatens no one, though the firm’s head of marketing and content, Margit Wennmachers, told me in a message on (Meta’s!) WhatsApp that both projects are merely in their “infancy” and warned against underestimating them.
Mr. Zuckerberg is aware that he can’t yet be completely free of the mainstream news media. While he gave interviews to only four outlets last week, he quietly briefed more than a dozen larger news organizations, including The New York Times, before his big “Meta” announcement, an aide said.
The tech giants haven’t exactly withered under the news media’s scrutiny, either. Indeed, covering these companies, Ms. Lessin said, requires a kind of “split-screen.” Tech companies’ businesses (in Facebook’s case, advertising) have so far been unaffected by all the exposés and the government investigations that followed. As journalists mocked Mr. Zuckerberg’s metaverse, the company’s stock ticked up.
And so the conflict between the media and tech industries is looking more and more like a stalemate. We may not all be spending the next pandemic in Hawaii with Mr. Zuckerberg, but we’ll probably be living with him a while longer.