Walt Mossberg on Apple: ‘Attention fanboys and fangirls’

January 2, 2014, 4:08 PM UTC

FORTUNE — With a rumored $10 to $15 million of investors’ cash, the backing of NBCUniversal and Terry (“Yahoo!”) Semels’ Windsor Media, and every one of the star writers from the Wall Street Journal‘s AllThingD, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at midnight Tuesday launched Re/code.

Or <re/code>, as the logo has it, a name that sounds like a gnu library and is going to take some getting used to.

I’ve subscribed to Re/code and will be reading it for Mossberg’s Apple (AAPL) product reviews and the good reporting of Ina Fried, Liz Gannes, Arik Hesseldahl, Peter Kafka and John Paczkowski (assuming his deputy-editorial duties give him time to write). I was never invited to Mossberg and Swisher’s annual D conferences, and I don’t expect that to change now that they’re called Code Conferences.

The new enterprise is only a few hours old and it’s too early to pass judgment, but I can’t let Walt Mossberg’s opening essay — It’s Not a Church, It’s Just an Apple Store — pass without comment.

He’s right, of course.

It’s not really okay, as he puts it, “to pour down personal hate and derision on people who happen to use and like a tech product that competes with the one you prefer.” Or to resort to “accusations of corruption (you were paid to praise a product) or laziness (you must not have really tested it)” when a reviewer has the temerity to list a product’s downsides.

And it’s interesting that in Mossberg’s long experience covering tech for the Journal that there have been what he calls “cults” or “churches” of Apple, Android, Blackberry and Open Source, but never a Church of Windows.


But I wonder how much of the behavior he bemoans has to do with tech in particular and how much with broader changes in our culture: The polarization and hardening of ideologies, the deterioration of public discourse, the nature of the medium — words exchanged, often anonymously, over the Internet without the social cues of face-to-face meetings.

Lacking that kind of feedback, people tend to adopt extreme positions and say things without realizing how insulting or condescending they sound.

Like referring to readers as “fanboys and fangirls.”

See also NBC and Terry Semel back new Swisher/Mossberg site.