Believing what journalists say is pretty dumb, but believing what spin doctors tell journalists to say is crass stupidity. As you'd expect, my inbox, along with those of everyone else who has ever written the words 'information' and 'technology' in the same sentence, is creaking under the weight of Vista-related missives this morning.
There are dozens from companies extolling the virtue of Vista and pointing out that they have coincidentally just launched a new range of exciting and innovative, world-class PCs just bursting to run the new OS. Who'd have thought it, eh?
But there are even more from PR companies - typically employing two attractive young women called Tamara and a dog working out of a dingy rented office over a shoe shop in Slough - on behalf of companies that make their living off the back of Microsoft, like pilot fish swimming alongside a shark, picking off parasites. The shark doesn't eat them because they perform a sort of useful purpose and, well, eating them would be rather beneath its dignity anyway.
But all those Tamaras have been beavering away over their skinny lattes for the last few months trying to come up with a news hook to get their nondescript clients into the news on the back of the Vista launch.
All PR bunnies are called Tamara for a simple reason - they all come up with exactly the same, formulaic excuses for press releases, year in, year out. In the great scheme of things this doesn't matter a great deal because they'll soon meet a nice young chap on the ski slopes, get married, have 2.6 kids and give up work to drive them the 200 yards to school in a five litre SUV.
What is much sadder is that journalists, who are, to a man, ugly, old, hardly ever called Tamara and destined to die of liver failure in their late forties, are flattered by the attentions of these attractive young flibbertigibbets and believe every damn word they read in their press releases.
This used to be a practice restricted to the US, whose journalists have a proud tradition of believing everything Corporate America tells them and repeating it verbatim in print. British hacks at least used to ask the occasional tough question - 'How much does it cost?', 'What colours are available?' and 'Where's the booze?'
But these days are long gone. This is why you'll find the media full of stories like 'Virus warnings as Microsoft launches Vista' (The Grauniad) and 'Virus writers set sights on Vista' (BBC). Even the once-mighty London Times chips in with a weaselly, unattributed '...worries persist that Vista, even at this late stage, is not quite ready for widespread adoption'.
Every two-bit security, antivirus and spam removal company on the planet is today vying for attention not by supporting the company to which they owe their very existence, by saying that Vista is rubbish unless you use their bolt-on security product. Not only is this disingenuous in the extreme, but lazy journalists are running this PR puffery as fact.
Now we finally reach the point of this diatribe. Journalists: Never trust a PR bunny - they're being paid to say that stuff. They may be telling the truth, but for God's sake make the effort to find out for yourself rather than sinking to the level of cut 'n' paste journalism.
And as for the rest of you out there: Don't make your mind up about Vista without trying it yourself. Remember that any newspaper story looks believable and accurate unless you happen to know something about the subject, in which case it's full of inaccuracies. All news stories are like this, not just the ones you know something about. Never trust a journalist.
Trust me, I'm a journalist. µ
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