Goatberg: The back story

We tried to stop him, but he just wouldn’t listen. Fair enough. It’s a free country. But guess who’s no longer getting the first Tablet that goes out the door for review?

Earlier today I reported the disturbing news that Walt Mossberg has gone off the reservation and started saying nice things about Windows 7 — including the fact that, in some ways, he thinks Win7 is better than Snow Leopard. Frankly we’re still stunned that he’s done this, but here’s how it went down around here this week.

We started thinking that something might be wrong when we got to the end of the day Monday and Katie still hadn’t received Walt’s column for review. He sends it every Monday, without fail, no matter what it’s about. So this was weird. Katie comes in and she’s like, I don’t know, but my spider sense is tingling on this one. I hope he’s not thinking about going rogue on us.

Tuesday she calls him and he’s gives her some stuff about being sick the day before and how he’s just getting to the column now, and she asks him what he’s writing about and there’s this weird silence on the other end and then he says, Well, I’m thinking about writing about Windows 7. Katie says that’s great, and if he needs any zinger lines she’d be happy to send some over, and also we’re happy to put a couple of our OS engineers on the line with him to point out some of the technical shortcomings that we’ve found as we’ve been pounding the shit out of Win7 in our labs. Walt’s like, No, I think I’m all set, I’ll be okay, thanks anyway, talk to you soon. And Katie’s like, Wait a minute — you aren’t going to say something nice, are you?

Well, it turns out he was. Katie’s like, Walt, you’re really going to do this? Have you thought about it? Do you know what it means if you do this? If you go rogue on us? Walt says he has thought about it, a great deal, in fact, and so much that he hasn’t been able to sleep very well lately. But he’s a journalist and he has to tell the truth and he has a duty to his readers.

Katie’s like, Duty? Duty? Are you fucking shitting me, Walt? You have a fucking duty? You know what? I’ll have a duty to come to your funeral after you get some strange bacterial infection and die. Do you hear me? Do you?

So that call did not end well. Anyway, a bit later we had someone else reach out to Walt and try a different approach. We asked if we’d at least be able to look at the review since it was going to be about us, in a way, and Walt said okay, we could look at it, and he sent it over. Jesus. The guy had gone nuts. I mean this was a puff piece like you wouldn’t believe.

We called Pogue and asked him if he could help. He looked at Walt’s review and he was like, Man oh man, what’s going on with him, is this male menopause or something? So he said he’d call Walt and try to talk him down off the ledge, and he did call Walt, but Walt said he couldn’t be talked out of doing it.

That’s when I got involved. I called him myself. I’m like, Walt, so look, this new Windows 7 is pretty nice, is it? He goes, Steve, it really is. They’ve done a nice job. What can I tell you? What can I do? My hands are tied here.

I told him I understood completely, and that if the Borg truly had done something good then I would be happy for them too, because it’s a good thing for the world if everyone does better work, and I’d like to think that maybe we had something to do with this by putting pressure on Microsoft to keep up, and blah blah blah. Meanwhile, all along, I’m throwing in some NLP keywords and putting him under. Thing about Walt is, he’s very susceptible to hypnosis.

Once I had him under I said, Look, here’s the thing. You should redo the review in such a way that it says nice things about the Borg, and you keep them happy, but you also make sure to appease us. For example, make sure you bring up Vista, and couch the praise for Win7 in the context of, Well, at least it’s better than that total piece of shit Vista. Okay? And then, okay, if you have to compare it to Snow Leopard, go ahead and say that it’s better in some small ways than Snow Leopard, but just make sure you preface that by saying that you still think Snow Leopard is better overall. Okay?

He said he’d try to do that, and I said he didn’t have to bother, we’d rewrite the copy he sent us and send it back to him. He said okay, that was fine by him. We went over it again last night just to make sure it wasn’t going to be too positive, and then Walt and I had another friendly chat and I assured him there are no hard feelings.

Best part is, I’m pretty sure he believed me.

Art by Jake. Much love.