The next great technology critic will not be a gadget reviewer

Matt Buchanan sums up the careers of Walt Mossberg and David Pogue, the longtime gadget reviewers at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Both men are retiring their posts for pastures new.

The industry that that the two men cover, personal technology, has changed profoundly since they began their long tenures. A billion people are on Facebook, and more than half of all American adults own a smartphone. Even the phrase “personal technology” feels strangely old-fashioned; all relevant consumer technology is personal now, and “technology” seems three syllables too long. Tech has become so thoroughly mainstream, gadgets so completely commoditized, that over the past several years new tech products of the sort reviewed by their columns have begun to feel positively mundane ... The point, ultimately, is that there is more need than ever for regular technology criticism in two of the most important newspapers in the country—but it needs to be deeper, and different, than what Pogue and Mossberg did.

Bravo. This is a point made often, but rarely so well. So I'd go even further, and suggest that our departing critical greats have already been replaced: by a small army of dedicated, obsessive, focused experts with interesting voices.

Technology is the mortar in the masonry of everything we do, from dawn to dusk, and the 'net's full of great writing. If anything, the Times and the Journal's challenge shouldn't be seen as discussing leaders, but how to do a better job of leading discussion. Even if the "New Pogues" are very famous and very well-compensated, the next great technology critic won't be a gadget reviewer. It'll be someone more like Matt: a skilled and sensitive narrator of lives made livable by technology.