Andrew Orlowski, Sloppy Journalist or Bold Faced Liar?

Over at Ed Bott’s house and Robert Scoble’s pad there’s been much a hub-to-do about an article recently put out by The Register’s Andrew Orlowski. Ed says the guys a hack and Scoble is denying things that this guy is crediting Scoble as having said. The original article in question had to do with alleged problems with the Google and Yahoo! toolbars on IE7.

Andrew Orlowski and The Register getting things wrong is nothing new. I remember how pissed I was back on the eve of CES 2004 when the very same Andrew Orlowski came out with a hit piece at the Register on how Microsoft was shelving their Media Center PC.

In what Orlowski deemed a Register “exclusive” on the eve of CES 2004 he reported that, “more in-fighting at Redmond is blamed for the rethink. But just as Mira has lost out to the Tablet PC initiative, which despite insignificant sales remains a “strategic” priority, Windows XP Media Center will be folded into Microsoft’s ever-changing Set Top Box strategy.”

Of course not only was Orlowski wrong, but mere days later Bill Gates himself personally got up on stage and gave the Media Center PC perhaps it’s biggest marketing push it had seen yet. Since then Gates personally has used many occasions at both public events like CES and talks to the press to personally promote Media Center. Gates is constantly talking the Media Center PC up and the company “shelving” the product could not have been further from the truth.

Of course it was easy for Orlowski to hide behind his, “although Register sources decline to be named,” statement while basically coming up with this story about Microsoft killing the Media Center PC possibly out of thin air.

So maybe Orlowski was played or maybe he makes things up or maybe he is actually a nefarious tool being used to spread lies and propaganda, or who knows, maybe he just likes to load up a big bong full of bud before sitting down at the keyboard, but whatever the case, I sure don’t read the Register anymore and I’d be highly suspect of anything this Orlowski character ever writes.

By suggesting that Microsoft was ditching Media Center (when in fact they were doing the EXACT opposite) Orlowski seemed to be trying to position the story as a wedge to drive between Microsoft and their OEM partners. More from the article, “while Microsoft can comfortably afford to juggle its roadmap, OEMs have to face the consequences, and patience appears to be wearing thin.” “That’s probably a sentiment HP, Gateway and a few others will be echoing today.”

Yeah, ok.

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22 Comments

  1. Tyme says:

    Orlowski is a sloppy journalist. Of course when someone makes the same “mistake” over and over again, it isn’t a mistake anymore, is it? :)

  2. You better watch it, you might get 50+ comments in a few hours from a bunch of angry Britons like I just did. And nobody to stand in my corner. :)

  3. Brendan says:

    I agree, and it should be noted that he isn’t just some run of the mill contributor or editor… The Register contact page lists him as the ‘San Francisco Bureau Chief’. From where I sit, such a position sounds like it is one of some authority and influence within the organization. Shame that such an individual is given such a platform to spew such filth.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Media Center WAS going to be canned. But the OEM outcry forced it back out. Haven’t you ever heard of backtracking? You don’t know the full story there. So don’t assume you do. Blogs makes mistakes too, but journalists have tend to have tons of sources that aren’t just echoing blog rumors.

  5. Media Center was never going to be canned. Anyone who tells you so wasn’t involved in any way. I was working with the team on the leadup to CES and all they could do was shake their heads.

    There was talk of adjusting strategy so that Media Center TOOK ON MORE of the set top box stuff, but ultimately it was decided that allowing the team to keep doing good stuff was the best way forward.

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    To Mr. Anonymous who said Media Center WAS going to be canned. I doubt that Microsoft changed course in the matter of a couple of days prior to CES — your so called backtracking — basically due to a little article from The Register.

    Jeremy Wright who worked on the team just disputed that charge and I’m sure others from Microsoft involved in the CES 2004 presentation could confirm that the direction of Gates presentation was in play prior to Mr. Orlowski’s article.

    The point is that in the best case scenario here Orlowski was duped by a source. Fine. But even CBS has the balls to come out and out their source when they were lied to about Rather’s now famous memos.

    If Orlowski really did have this information and did not just make this story up, then let’s have a little more than “Anonymous sources.” When you hide behind “anonymous sources” you have an even greater accountability to the truth.

    If Orlowski didn’t have a source on this let’s at least have him come out and share with the rest of us what flavor of acid he was on the morning that he wrote his article.

    Microsoft doesn’t decide to “can” Media Center two days before CES and then come out with a huge orchestrated marketing push for the product that involved weeks and months to prepare ahead of time. To try to insist this makes you look as bad as Orlowski himself… or wait… Orlowski? Is that you?

  7. kuri says:

    I have dealt with Orlowski on stories in the past and have found him to be a reliable journalist. He has a talent for the mot juste but in my experience cautious about backing up his stories.

    You say:”Of course it was easy for Orlowski to hide behind his, “although Register sources decline to be named,” statement while basically coming up with this story about Microsoft killing the Media Center PC possibly out of thin air.” From this point on your article itself becomes unfounded accusation. What do you mean “basically.. possibly”? You must be very careful because, while it is OK to say you don’t like someones journalism or that they have got a story wrong, it is potentially libellous to claim that they make stories up out of thin air. And no I am not Orlowski or indeed anyone connected with the Register.

  8. Kuri: I have proof that Orlowski makes things up out of thin air. Totally. He is the worst journalist I’ve ever dealt with. By far. Anyone who backs him up should really look into the facts and think about their own credibility and/or ethics. Orlowski has none. Period.

  9. kuri says:

    I am thought about my credibility and ethics and come to the conclusion that reporting my positive experience of the man is completely justifiable, indeed arguably it is incumbent on me to do so when I see someone being attacked in this way. You clearly have a different experience and it is your right to report it.

    However, the terms in which these accusations were put in the original post are probably libellous. You could argue justification but it would be hard to prove the allegation that a journalist “basically… possibly” makes things up out of thin air. A libel lawyer would make mincemeat of the speculative wavering language, the “basically… possibly” in particular. The following passage reads like a exercise in a basic journalistic handbook about what not to do when one is handling highly sensitive allegations about someones professional competence and ethics:

    Of course it was easy for Orlowski to hide behind his, “although Register sources decline to be named,” statement while basically coming up with this story about Microsoft killing the Media Center PC possibly out of thin air.

    “So MAYBE Orlowski was played or MAYBE he makes things up or MAYBE he is actually a nefarious tool being used to spread lies and propaganda, or who knows, MAYBE he just likes to load up a big bong full of bud before sitting down at the keyboard”.

    Do you know how they would take you to pieces if this piece was subjected to the kind of scrutiny proper journalists articles sometimes are? Do you actually have any facts on the man’s conduct? You seem to have circumstantial facts on the truth of his story’s claims but ironically, since you are accusing him of making things up out of thin air, you leave the reader with the impression that you don’t actually know what infact he did do when writing about the story. The basic rule when dealing with individuals professional reputations is if you don’t know for certain, cut the speculations.

    You might more safely have said that he had written things that were not true. In the Media Center case being quoted, however, I feel you are highly unlikely to know to what extent he did base his story on sources (possibly wrong ones or people with an axe to grind but people who he might expect to have some knowledge of the situation with the media center.) In all likelihood he did have at least one source because journalists usually do, and my experience of Orlowski is that he is pretty professional. Your accusation impugns his professionalism in the most fundamental way it is possible to impugn a journalist’s reputation and therefore is highly legally dangerous.

    But lets leave the legalities out of it. He is a journo so he will probably let you off. The real issue you should ask yourself about is your own credibility and ethics. Sure, you have an issue with the man. Maybe he has made some mistakes. Maybe you don’t like his journalism. But is it right to make such broad claims about an individuals professional competence and ethics based on what still seems to me like very thin evidence and speculation about a course of events (in the media center case) which I don’t think you can know the full ins and outs of. It is a bit like someone getting pissed off about some geeks programming and then launching into a attack saying that geek doesn’t have any programming skills at all, nicks all of his stuff from other people, and drinks bud on the job while doing it. Is it right to say that when you don’t actually really know any of that.

  10. Thomas Hawk says:

    Kuri. He did not only get the story wrong on Media Center, he got it 100% over the top wrong. And he got it wrong based on anonymous sources. When CBS News got the story wrong — when they were “played” so to speak by an anonymous source, they outed their anonymous source. Of course, the journalist in question, Dan Rather, also lost his job, but that’s another story.

    Orlowski has never offered any explanation about how he got this story so wrong, if in fact he had multiple sources confirming this, etc. His silence makes one wonder.

    I’m not concerned about libel here. The facts speak that he clearly was wrong and I do in fact state that “maybe he was played.” Although I may use colorful language. He did in fact come up with a story about Microsoft killing the Media Center PC and “possibly” is a modifier that would in fact avoid libel even if I am incorrect. Of course, I would be interested in his explanation on how he got a story 100% wrong but with only silence I leave my own opinion on the “maybes” to myself.

    I probably wouldn’t be so hard on Orlowski but it’s just irresponsible to print something like this original story and then not explain afterwards when you are so wrong. If CBS News reported that we’d bombed IRAQ again and 1,000 people were killed last night and then that had not happened, they’d have the courtesy to explain where they made a wrong turn journalisticly.

    To compound the matter. I have personally seen an email written my Robert Scoble that is different than an email that Orlowski published and attributed to Robert Scoble. Now again with the maybes. Maybe Orlowski made up an email, or maybe he was played, or maybe he like to load up a big bowl of bud before altering his emails. You get the idea.

    Certainly it is fair to question Orlowski’s journalistic integrity with regards to this story when evidence would seem to suggest something as terrible as either getting the story wrong again or making up an email.

    By the way, I have sent my concerns to his editor at The Register and have thus far heard nothing back. I’d invite them to present a different story if they so choose.

  11. Kuri: it’s very easy for me to prove that Andrew is lying. I have the original email (and so does my IT department).

    Want to go into a court of law?

    You’re defending a liar — and one that can be proven to be so. Hope that helps. Glad you don’t care about your own reputation and/or credibility.

  12. kuri says:

    Scoble, have you read yourself? For someone who has a role as a representative of a major and respected company your comments are intemperate at best. All I have done is report the truth of my experience of Orlowski and pointed out that the post on this blog was terribly written and legally dangerous. If you reread my post you would see that I have not commented on your complaint about Orlowski but on the subject matter of this post. If you reread again you will also see that I do not say that I do not care about my credibility and reputation but that I have thought carefully about what I have written and concluded that it is entirely responsible. Read again and you will find it is. I then suggest that you take stock of where you are in the credibility stakes because I don:t believe your ranting is helping you here. On the point about whether Orlowski has done something reprehensible in your case (about which I have not commented a great deal because I do not have the facts) I hope that you have the very strong evidence you clearly think you have. Again, as in the case of the media center case, you are making accusations about the man:s motivation and precise conduct that require very very strong proof. Perhaps a mistake has been made or perhaps Orlowski himself was spoofed. If that is a case then your accusation is incredibly unwise and irresponsible. I don’t know. I think you have access to the facts. I just ask one thing: could you cut the intemperate aggression towards a poster who has only reported his experience of someone he thought was professional in his experience (I explicitly said people had the right to make contrary reports) and also cautioned against some rather illsupported and intemperate attacks on the man.

  13. > For someone who has a role as a representative of a major and respected company your comments are intemperate at best.

    When you have a liar and a libeler going after you I suggest that you too will be intemperate.

    I do have strong proof: my own email.

    I give my cell phone out on each blog. 425-205-1921. It’s so you can call and check into the facts.

    But, instead of reporting fairly on the facts you have called me intemperate. Well, damn straight I’m intemperate!

  14. kuri says:

    Sorry about the delay in responding. My initial intention when commenting on this blog was to warn against hysteria. I did not have any particular axe to grind on the scoble orlowski tete a tete. I have no experience of dealing with Scoble and some experience of dealing with Orlowski as an uninterested second party.I just felt it was right to report the fact that Orlowski, while he may have made some mistakes in reporting Scoble’s post, was quite professional in my dealings with him

    I have to say that I have taken exception to the unwarranted attempts to question my integrity on the basis of my report of my experience and I am left with the impression of a rather dangerous (from the point of view of Microsoft) attempt to engender a bit of witch hunt on this issue. The fact that a Microsoft representative should be acting in this way in response to a really rather small but interesting publication is, to say the least, very surprising. It seems to me that it cannot do Microsoft any good to have such immature and unprofessional representation. What has shone through the original post and Scoble’s subsequent direct comments is a lack of proper PR, legal or journalistic experience/professionalism/training. That is something that is going to cause very serious problems in the long run.

    I have to say I didn’t fully understand Scoble’s last comment. It seemed to imply my points were the same as Orlowski’s alleged mistake (of which I have no first hand knowledge) and massively over simplify the issues I tried to point out with the nature of the very wide ranging allegations being made against Orlowski in both the original post, on which I tried to make a fairly limited contribution, and Scoble’s subsequent anger and credibility questioning.

  15. Kuri: this was no mistake. It was a hatchet job. Orlowski has had plenty of chances to fix this article and give at minimum my side of the story. He hasn’t done so and hasn’t answered any of my emails or anyone else doing inquiries into this situation. The email was made up. It isn’t what I wrote. I can’t be clearer about it.

  16. Liar says:

    The term is bald-faced liar, okay. Bald.

  17. Person says:

    I know this is several years after the post but I would like to add that I found this by searching Andrew Orlowski’s name (which is Andrew Orlowski) after thinking, “The Register is mostly OK but who’s this Andrew Orlowski pillock? I wonder if anyone else out there thinks he’s a twat?”

    Normally if people were thinking that about a Register writer they would say so in the comments, but Andrew Orlowski disables comments.

  18. Another Person says:

    AnotherPerson says yes!

  19. Brett Glass says:

    I see: and Andrew Orlowski is the only journalist who ever made a prediction that didn’t pan out.

    The fact is that Orlowski is consistently one of the most insightful, forward looking journalists in the tech industry. And he’s made far fewer incorrect predictions than more popular ones, such as John C. Dvorak (whom I admire also, by the way).

  20. Person says:

    Andrew Orlowski is a professional troll. He has recently started allowing comments on his “articles” and one comment which is guaranteed to be deleted is “Andrew Orlowski is a professional troll.” He increasingly borrows the style of a young earth creationist when replying to comments. Brett Glass above employs a fine example of his baiting tactics and may even be him.

  21. yet another person says:

    google search “andrew orlowski twat” led me here. Suffice it to say he really is, I’ve corrected hium from a professional viewpoint on errors he’s made in his articles on global warming – really, really basic errors – and all I got back was abuse. You can’t even make a negative comment about him in any of the comment sections, it’ll be pulled (you can about the other writers).