Posts Tagged ‘national security agency’


SugarString melts from the heat of its own bias

SugarString logoWell, heck, that sure didn’t last.

And it’s not hard to understand why.

SugarString, an attempt by Verizon to create a technology news website in the vein of Wired or The Verge, dissipated like sugar in warm water this week after the site’s editor admitted it would not lay even a keystroke on two key telecommunications issues: government surveillance and network neutrality.

The reason? Verizon sits squarely in the headlight beams of both issues. The company reportedly complied with government demands to turn over customer data, according to National Security Agency records leaked by contractor-in-exile Edward Snowden. It also has sued against having an open Internet, saying the government’s regulations preventing tiered access, and thus tiered charges, violate Verizon’s constitutional rights.

Of course, bad news is bad business for branded content, otherwise known as native advertising — a form of marketing that intentionally blurs the line between pure advertising and editorial. Even the best, most creative product-sponsored journalists on Verizon’s payroll would have trouble sewing silk purses out of what their employer clearly believes are two big, stinking sow’s ears.

SugarString’s editor, Cole Stryker, revealed as much right up front. When Stryker recruited potential staffers through emails, he made clear in those emails that surveillance and network neutrality were forbidden as story subjects. Naturally, the potential recruits turned around and wrote about these restrictions for SugarString’s potential competitors. Verizon responded to the sour smell of hypocrisy in Stryker’s emails by denying the editorial restrictions even existed, and it waved off bias concerns by characterizing the site as merely a “pilot project” — a multimillion-dollar one at that.

Yet by Wednesday, SugarString.com was dark and Verizon had issued a terse, dismissive eulogy that closed this way: “… As with any pilot project, we evaluate, take our learnings (sic), improve our execution and move forward.”

Maybe among those “learnings,” Verizon realizes it should use the word “lessons” instead.

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