What deserves firing? Asking for Excel, or ignoring the alternatives?

 

It’s 2021, and you can still have problems for not using Microsoft.

What deserves firing? Asking for Excel, or ignoring the alternatives? /img/statesman-mcc.jpg

The Idaho Statesman (IS) is a USA local newspaper, that is owned by a company called McClatchy. A few years ago, McClatchy decided to cut costs by, among other things, “doing away with subscriptions to Microsoft Office for new employees”. Consequentely, in late January 2021 McClatchy denied a request by a new IS reporter to have “access to Microsoft Excel”. Faced with resistance to get a software program as basic as a spreadsheet for a member of her staff, the IS top editor, Mrs Christina Lords, complained about this on Twitter.

Eventually, it seems, the reporter was “granted access to Excel on her company laptop”. But Lords was fired, for violating McClatchy’s social media policy.

Fired for “access to Microsoft Excel”? Excel?

What deserves firing? Asking for Excel, or ignoring the alternatives? /img/mcclatchy.jpg
McClatchy: extraordinary journalism, from SPREADSHEET-LESS newsrooms?

To know more about the firing, and the reactions to it, please see the original article. The topic of this post is another. I do not know how that story ended. I just find unbelievable that it started. Unless that Washington Post article misses some really important part of the picture, of course. It is unbelievable and shameful (for us as a civilization, not just for McClatchy!) that, in 2021, both the owners and the reporters of any newspaper, anywhere:

  • still seem to ignore that decent, perfectly usable alternatives to Microsoft Excel exist
  • or are still concretely locked into one proprietary product, and one only, by God knows what mix of legal traps, cultural inertia and self-harming technical practices (e.g., using non-portable macros, fonts, and other basic, similarly depressing errors)

McClatchy did the RIGHT thing. Initially, that is

As far as I am concerned, I find nothing wrong in McClatchy’s decision to not pay anymore for Microsoft Office. What I find hard to accept is just their refusal to buy the most expensive variety of a software essential for daily tasks… without concretely encouraging all of their staff to use license-free alternatives, or at least allowing them. It is almost like saying “we won’t buy gold-plated Mont Blanc pens for new employees anymore, but even those employees must write only with gold-plated Mont Blanc pens”. Please tell me that there is more to this story.

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