Vanity Fair is one of my all-time favorite magazines — it publishes loads of incredibly well-written stories about fascinating topics and people. Its regular features, like My Stuff and the Proust Questionnaire, are always entertaining.
So, I was pretty excited to get an email from one of Vanity Fair‘s publicists this morning, offering an advance copy of a story that will run in the August issue. Written by Kurt Eichenwald, the piece is promised to be an unflinching deep dive into the past ten years at Microsoft while Steve Ballmer has been at the helm — specifically, I’m told, Eichenwald uncovers the stifling bureaucracy and “astonishingly foolish management decisions” that have held Microsoft back while Apple ascended to dizzying heights in the eyes of global consumers and the stock market.
It sounds like a doozy. People have already begun Tweeting and blogging about the teaser that was published today on Vanity Fair‘s website. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the full piece. So I emailed the publicist back within minutes: Yes, yes, yes, please send the entire thing over! This was the response:
Now, that’s a question I certainly never thought I’d encounter from someone pitching a story to TechCrunch — unless we were being punk’d once again, or perhaps if it was a piece that required crazy sensitive court documents or something. Who faxes anymore? OK, besides Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour (maybe it is a Condé Nast thing.)
Anyway, it struck me as so funny I had to forward the thread along to my colleagues. They responded in kind:
The thing is, I would have fired up TechCrunch HQ’s fax machine if I could have. But like many reporters often do, I’m working remotely today (right now I’m about halfway through a 5-hour flight, with another 2-hour flight to go after that one. In-flight Internet for the win.) Faxing is just not going to happen.
I explained this to the publicist, and asked if she could perhaps use her own fax machine to scan the document, which she could then send along to me as a PDF attachment. I pretty much provided step-by-step instructions. That was five hours ago, and I haven’t heard back yet.
But I still really wanted to read this thing! So, I earnestly took to TechCrunch’s internal Yammer to ask if one of my coworkers could please figure out what our fax machine number is, receive the document, scan it, and send it to me. No one was up for it, but I did get assigned a different story idea:
Now I’m following the orders of my editor. Well, actually, two of my editors.
I’m not sure that there is a big takeaway here, but it is amusing — and also maddening. The whole thing is just ironic, or at least Alanic: The distribution of an apparently awesome article about one company’s old-fashioned business habits and suffocating bureaucracy is slowed down by the old-fashioned business habits and suffocating bureaucracy of the company that published it. It’s also a sign of how far new technology still has to go before it becomes really mainstream.
(And yes, in case you’re wondering, it is also a slow news day.)
So. I still want to read all about the Ballmer dirt. I want to write a post with a scathing excerpt and tell all the TechCrunch readers out there to run and pick up a Vanity Fair, pop some popcorn, and read all about it themselves. But at this rate, I might just have to wait until it comes out on the newsstand myself.
Image of fax machine credited to Michael A. Keller/Uniphoto via Britannica.com