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How Belo Found Tech Immortality Print E-mail
by doug bedell    Sat, Oct 22, 2005, 09:48 AM

redpussycat.jpgAs part of its ten-year anniversary, writers at the tech portal have come up with a list of the Top Ten Worst Products of the Decade. It should be of no surprise to those involved, but a Dallas-made product came in No. 2, right behind that dreadful, hokey Microsoft operating system, Bob.

That’s right, it is the Cue:Cat – the incredibly stupid handheld scanner developed with an investment of more than $40 million Belo Bucks.

This appliance is aptly reviled to this day. Entire Websites like were devoted to ways of smashing, exploding, shredding and generally torturing the little red-nosed pussy cats. The thing never worked right on notebooks, it trampled user privacy and, although it was handed out free, it contained the most draconian end user agreement ever foisted on the public.

So how does a major media company like Belo get involved in such a pickle? How did its leaders wind up fleeced and permanently embarrassed? And why, pray tell, weren’t people sacked in the aftermath?

The answer to all these questions is found in three words.

1) Arrogance. The corporate leaders, decidedly dumb about technology, believed they could force computer users to allow them to track their activities online, then sell them advertising. They had no respect for the public intelligence.

2) Deafness. IT folks, the entire tech team, just about everyone with a lick of savvy in the newsroom ... they all said it was a stupid idea. Nobody listened.

3) Deceit. Belo editors and hierarchy ordered up an embarrassing array of self-serving stories. Reporters were told to "use normal coverage considerations," and "write it straight." Yet nothing "straight" was allowed onto the air or in print at any of the Belo media outlets. Locally, Channel 8 featured three long days of myopic 'Cat glorification. The DMN attempted to force its tech writer (moi) to approve a completely lobotomized version of my initial story package. Its final form, under no byline, excluded nationally prominent personal technology experts who talked about the fundamental (and oh, so obvious) Cue:Cat design and conceptual flaws.

It's one thing to be dumb. It's quite another to be arrogantly deaf, dumb and deceitful.

Unfortunately, all the major players in the sad Cue:Cat saga are still basking in the power and glory of the Belo Death Star.

At any right-thinking organization, they'd be out on the Young Street sidewalk ... alongside the poor Circulation Department worker bees who took the whack for another set of stupid, arrogant, deaf and dumb Belo management decisions.




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