I have blogged about this before, but the BBC were good enough to give me a superb example to technology journalists getting things wrong.
It was the old misconception that open source software is developed by volunteers. This is, of course, a common mistake among journalists. However the the BBC has fine traditions to uphold. It showed the brilliance of its journalism in the examples it picked of volunteer developed projects, about halfway down this page.
The first example was Linux. The main developers of the Linux kernel, including Linus Torvalds, are paid to develop Linux. There is currently as well publicised court case between IBM and SCO over IBM’s contributions to Linux. It is so well publicised that there is a busy and popular website is (mostly) devoted to the covering the case. The BBC has covered the case itself, although its coverage dried up as it became obvious that IBM was going to win.
Are BBC journalists unware of what their colleagues in the same speciality have covered? Perhaps they do not read the BBC site? Possibly they believe IBM to be staffed by volunteers? Perhap with the BBC’s adoption of business methods, it has come to regard IBM as a fellow non-profit organisation?
I could go on with more examples of Linux developers and contributing organisations. The Open Office example is even more unfortunate.
If the BBC journalists had bothered to read the page “About” on the Open Office web site, they would have found out that “Sun continues to sponsor development on OpenOffice.org and is the primary contributor of code to OpenOffice.org.”. The fact that a Sun Microsystems logo appears on every page of the site is also a clue that might be evident to anyone lacking journalistic flair.