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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New WiFi Hotspot in San Francisco? Bah Humbug!

Posted By on Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 12:59 PM

This Just In: Radio-Wave-Borne Computer Messages Discovered In SF Office Complex
  • This Just In: Radio-Wave-Borne Computer Messages Discovered In SF Office Complex
This Just In: Radio-Wave-Borne Computer Messages Discovered In SF Office Complex
In Year's Deadest News Week, TV Reports There's WiFi in an Office Complex

The week between Christmas and New Year's is the news businesses' deadest. Bureaucrats, politicians and business honchos aren't in their offices to answer phone calls, they're not out in public making proclamations, and they're absent from the smoky back rooms where they usually cook up rotten deals for journalists to report on.

For media types, sadly, the show must go on. 

Today, for instance, television and other news outlets filled time and space by reporting that WiFi service had been installed in an office complex. The local NBC station's take: AT&T Takes Another Stab at Improving Reception in the City. In keeping with TV's non-news-as-news tradition, this headline was bogus on a couple of levels.

AT&T didn't actually do anything improve its notoriously lousy cell phone reception as the headline inferred. Rather, the company merely installed some WiFi transmitters.

AT&T didn't do anything to improve matters "in the City" either.

The transmitters were installed in Embarcadero Center, a cluster of

downtown office buildings erected in the 1970s.

Obviously, it's

not unusual for high-end financial district office buildings to have WiFi access. Indeed, it's unusual for a fancy downtown building not to

have this sort of service. It would be as newsworthy to report an office

building had installed a new break-room toaster-oven.

WiFi service, it seems, is this era's Krispy Kreme donut shop. Back during the early aughts, the snack chain had so successfully hyped their product that journalists felt "the need

to write a story every time a Krispy Kreme opens? Ev-er-y time. Complete

with photos and if-you-go boxes," according to the American Journalism Review.

Prior to that, Microsoft trained reporters to beat drums every time the company tweaked features on a product.

Now WiFi's supposedly always news, even though home transmitters are an appliance as common as toasters.

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Matt Smith


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