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Conflicted about tech, loving Apple

When it comes to high tech, the media have something of a split personality.

The biggest single topic is an upbeat, hey-this-is-making-our-lives-better message, accounting for 23 percent of the coverage in a one-year period from 2009 to 2010.

But close behind, says a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, was a darker aspect: concerns about risks to our privacy and particularly the dangers for children. That amounted to 18 percent of the coverage.

There you have the twin poles of American attitudes toward all the devices that keep us wired. They are vital, exciting, way cool; but they are also stalking us, our shopping habits and our kids.

The biggest storyline in the 52 television, newspaper, Web and radio outlets studied by the project: the dangers of texting while driving. The second-biggest topic: the launch of the latest Apple iPhones. And the debut of the iPad wasn't far behind.

For instance, Katie Couric led into a CBS segment by saying: "Just when we thought our handheld electronics could do everything, Apple rolls out a new one it says can do everything and more."

Speaking of Steve Jobs's company, the portrayal of tech firms was generally positive. Apple was the company covered the most heavily (some would say obsessively), with 42 percent of the stories describing it as innovative and superior. Another 27 percent of the pieces praised its loyal fan base. But 17 percent dared suggest that Apple products don't live up to the hype.

For Google, 25 percent of the coverage credited its advancements in helping people search for online content. But Google was only half as likely as Apple to be described as having superior, innovative products.

In terms of volume, the study says, 15 percent of tech stories focused on Apple; 11 percent on Google; 7 percent on Twitter and 5 percent on Facebook. (And to think Twitter doesn't have a hot new movie coming out, even if the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg is rather negative.)

On Twitter, the hottest topic was...Twitter itself. Apple got more attention than Google, and Microsoft trailed all three, as well as discussions of Facebook.

Overall, the center found, technology made up 1.6 percent of the total media coverage.

By Howard Kurtz  | September 26, 2010; 11:59 PM ET
Categories:  Internet, Latest stories  | Tags:  Apple, Google, Project for Excellence in Journalism, Steve Jobs, high tech, media, technology  
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