Readers Voice Wont Go Unheard

Opinion: eWEEK readers are a big part of keeping vendors honest, and eWEEK will increase its emphasis on using their voice.

It was a long week.

But there are a few things you can do only by jumping into the fray, and getting a sense of how the myriad vendors we report on in eWEEK are feeling about us is one of those things. With that as the goal, a group of editors here hit the road and holed ourselves up in hotel conference rooms on the West Coast for a week of serial sit-downs with technology vendors.

It was a long week but not uninformative.

One key point of misunderstanding between eWEEK and tech vendors seems to be our insistence on including you, our readers, in our reporting. The hows and whys of our use of IT user comments to balance and inform our tech journalism is among the biggest sources of friction with vendors. It occurred to me after Id explained the concept a dozen times that maybe weve been unclear about our message in the past and that we havent done much better in explaining the evolving trends in tech reporting that amplify the need for user perspective.

Our view has traditionally been that comments from you, named and on the record, test the veracity of vendors claims. They serve not only to balance our reporting but also to lend context and make our reporting useful to your fellow technology pros.

Such commentary often lands in a predictable spot in our stories, somewhere between the bold claims of the vendor and the nuts and bolts of the vendors offering. With any luck, eWEEK readers are using that peer perception to determine if the story rings true and relevant for them.

As the editorial team here works to set our agenda for next year, eWEEK News will increase its emphasis on using your voice in our stories and infusing our reporting with even more of the real-world concerns and desires of IT managers.

The change has been coming on steadily over the past few years, in fact. Its no secret that our readers have added business concerns to their list of considerations when mulling new technology in the enterprise. Rare today is the IT professional who cant make a solid business case as part of his or her technology planning.

You will see eWEEK News elevate and expand the user perspective in our reporting to infuse our stories with all the things you care about and to give you a real sense of where your peers see value amid the noisy stream of product releases and service offerings. This works because you help us understand that troublesome fifth W in journalism: the elusive "why."

Many of the vendors I spoke with last week were quick to point out, and accurately so, that it has become increasingly difficult to get IT professionals to comment on the record about the use of their products. Corporate policies now frequently forbid employees from endorsing any product or making any attributable statement to the press without formal approval from on high.

The effort is most difficult in the area of security products, where companies often are reluctant to detail their past vulnerabilities or current state of security readiness. Most of the security vendors I talked to said finding users willing to comment on the record made security public relations the toughest form of tech PR. "Its just about impossible," complained a representative of a security consultancy during the meetings. No doubt thats true. Our reporters face the same hurdles daily. But the work pays off when you and your peers do share insights into the battle that every IT pro faces today.

And so we wont back down.

As one vendor representative told me during the sessions in Palo Alto, Calif., the demand for user backup of vendor claims "definitely keeps us honest in our presentations to you." I can think of no better service journalism provides, frankly.

eWEEK has always been about access, especially to our valued readers. Perhaps making plain our desire to include your voices for the benefit of all IT will encourage you to be one of those folks who tells us what works for you and why ... or what doesnt.

Executive Editor of News Chris Gonsalves can be reached at