Print 28 comment(s) - last by Mr Roberto.. on Jan 16 at 7:34 PM

Gawker stirs feathers at CES 2008, and inadvertently proves ... "something"

Unless you decided to forgo all CES coverage from DailyTech and the rest of the Internet, you've probably stumbled across the Gizmodo video "The meanest things we did at CES."

For those who haven't seen the video, in a nutshell it's a recap of all the press events and booths Gizmodo visited after it turned off the TV monitors with a $5 infrared-zapper.  Some people were mad, others said it was immature, others said it was funny.

Primum non nocere. First, do no harm.  It's funny how only doctors adopted the mentality, though it was Hippocrates' intention that his guidelines of Epidemics apply to all.  Even the errant journalist. 

Nobody wants to be a real journalist.  A real journalist would be completely transparent. Like some sort of Schrodinger Cat of the Macro, a journalist fixes his world in a state just by observing it. 

The CNETs of the world who were critical of Gizmodo's decision are just as guilty of influencing and changing the world they report on.  I suppose what Lam authorized is no different from the times we've walked into booths and "illicitly" benchmarked Barcelona or something of the sort.

We have a word for the transparent journalist that does no harm. It's "press-release-rewriter."

Brian Lam, editor of Gizmodo, illustrates this somewhat cleverly in a thinly veiled insult to a critical CNET blog.  "The point is that if we do things the way you do them at CNet, we're CNet. If you do things the way Giz and Engadget do them, you're actually ... Crave." (Crave is CNET's gadget blog.)

I'd be hard pressed to find a single significant publication that does not cross the boundaries of what Hippocrates would consider harm.  DailyTech writer and CNET veteran Steve Kovsky describes the media as a weapon, but the author doesn't get to pick who he points it at.  Laws change based on some covert report; stock prices tumble because someone published a report; companies lose clients based on scathing reports.  Perhaps intended, but perhaps not. 

For those interested in how Gizmodogate played out, the company that organizes CES "banned" Gawker Media and Gizmodo from the show next year. 

It's funny, I always thought the journalist was accountable to no one.

Perhaps Lam's experiment is a good exercise in what differentiates John Q. Public from the actual journalist with empirical proof.  A random CES attendee would also face some serious repercussions -- perhaps jail time -- if he didn't own one of the largest tech trade publications in the world.   Roll this event up in the heap of other asinine things people get away with in the name of journalism.

The difference between Lam and a hypothetical presentation saboteur is that Lam will certainly be at CES next year.  There's absolutely no physical way CEA can prevent some kid from walking into CES and taking pictures for Gizmodo.

Accountability should not be confused with lip service. We, the readers and lawmakers and publishers, determine what defines journalism.  Don't expect CEA to do it for us.

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What in plain terms is your point?
By anotherdude on 1/12/2008 1:12:03 PM , Rating: 4
I could be missing something here and I mean that sincerly but in order for their prank to have been some sort of creative improvement on writing a 'press release' it should have served us, the readers, in some way. How did turning off a bunch of TVs do that?

Was this a statement about how vacuous the presentations were? Or what? I honestly don't get it. I do understand that it might get Gizmodo a bunch of free pub and web hits. That wasn't the point was it?

RE: What in plain terms is your point?
By KristopherKubicki on 1/12/2008 1:46:46 PM , Rating: 2
Well (and I don't mean to confuse anyone by condoning what Gizmodo did) I think Gizmodo "proved" themselves as some kind of journalists in the fact that they got away with it. Sure they got a slap on the wrist from CEA, but they arent facing lawsuits or jailtime or anything.

If it was just another dude pulling the same stunt, there would almost certainly be slightly larger consequences.

No, I wouldn't have done this. I think best practice journalism falls somewhere in between rehashing press releases and sabotaging trade shows for hits. But I do acknowledge that sabotaging a trade show, getting a slap on the wrist for it, and continuing on demonstrates Gizmodo's legitimacy.

RE: What in plain terms is your point?
By Spyvie on 1/12/2008 3:17:01 PM , Rating: 5
What Gizmodo did at CES isn't so much a violation of journalistic ethics as it is an affront to adult behavior. The writers actions are the story here, and that's not reporting the news... thats creating entertainment. The result is more Tom Green than Tom Brokaw.

Obviously no one would mistake this stunt for real news, and no one can say there isn't a place for this kind of content on a gadget blog. But there are times when the distinction is less apparent, how is the reader left to judge the difference between information and entertainment?

RE: What in plain terms is your point?
By KristopherKubicki on 1/12/2008 3:20:35 PM , Rating: 3
Many would argue that the NYT writing about NSA lockers in AT&T is a stunt too. Is disseminating security protocols actual news or just an exercise in entertainment and curiosity?

I don't know, or care, but I think you and I are operating on the same wavelength with this regard.

RE: What in plain terms is your point?
By TomZ on 1/12/2008 4:31:48 PM , Rating: 3
I think the NYT is doing the right thing in disclosing questionable or controversial government actions. I don't see how that correlates to the sophmoric antics of the Gizmodo kids, however.

I also find it laughable to turn their behavior and the after-effects into some sort of journalistic philosophy debate. They behaved like children; it's really as simple as that.

By Inkjammer on 1/12/2008 9:53:14 PM , Rating: 2
I think the NYT is doing the right thing in disclosing questionable or controversial government actions. I don't see how that correlates to the sophmoric antics of the Gizmodo kids, however.
But that's just it - you can't compare the two. The New York Times is about as fun as a cinderblock while Gizmodo is often humorous, light tech reading. Gizmodo is sort of a blog version of Think Geek with a dash of Woot. It's about having fun while covering some interesting gadgets.

And $10 says they got the infrared remote from Think Geek, too.

By masher2 on 1/12/2008 4:49:02 PM , Rating: 2
> "The writers actions are the story here, and that's not reporting the news... thats creating entertainment"

Agreed. I think the issue here isn't that they helped define bloggers as journalists, but rather blurred the line between journalism and entertainment.

By MatthiasF on 1/12/2008 11:44:04 PM , Rating: 2
Are you sure they got away with it?

Give it a few months and we'll see if any of those companies file suits for damages from what could probably be easily argued as corporate sabotage, not only for Gawker or the site, but the vendor that purposefully offered the gadgets for the prank with consequences in mind.

In the least, they could argue for a portion or all the cost of setting up the displays, event, etc. and at the worst the cost of loss of sales (long shot).

Meanwhile, I'm sure the event coordinators will know better next time (tape off the IR receiver).

By eye smite on 1/13/2008 9:57:54 AM , Rating: 2
I think it's a lack of showing on common decency, which is lacking more and more now days. I don't know if parents didn't beat these adult/children that do the review sites growing up or if they learned said behaviour is just fun screwing with other peoples efforts for a laugh. Banning them from future events is a way of saying we should have held you down and kicked you in the gonads 20 times with steel toed boots on, but you're not worth the jail time.

Easily seperable...
By masher2 on 1/12/2008 1:58:21 PM , Rating: 3
If we want to distinguish between good journalism and bad, we merely need to Thomas Aquinas doctrine of "double effect". It states several criteria for judging actions that produce both good and bad secondary effects:

1. The act itself must be morally good
2. The agent must not desire the bad effect (i.e. it must be an undesired side effect)
3. The good effect must be produced by the action itself, not through the bad effect.
4. The good effect must outweigh the bad effect.

It seems clear Gizmodo's actions here fail on all four counts.

RE: Easily seperable...
By KristopherKubicki on 1/12/2008 2:25:09 PM , Rating: 2
Great points, as usual Michael.

I do suspect that we could pick apart some of these guidelines apart if we subscribe to that philosophy. For example, we could argue that while Lam's actions were morally questionable, the effects were actually fairly neutral.

Nobody got fired over their TV getting turned off. No companies lost sales over it either. Maybe a few people got scolded for not putting tape over the IR port.

You or I or Lam can find exceptions to just about any general rules for journalism in not only what Gizmodo did, but what just about any publication does. I happen to subscribe to an abstract theory of reporting without accountability and minimal impact, though much more intelligent people than I set various other guidelines.

RE: Easily seperable...
By anotherdude on 1/12/2008 3:03:35 PM , Rating: 3
If the prank had been in any way illuminating or even simply interesting to me I MIGHT agree that the very mild damage of annoying the presenters and the audience was worth it. But it was just a silly, teenage style prank.

In your article I think you mentioned something about sneaking in to benchmark Barcelona. You could argue that has real value.

A pure prank should be beneath any sort of blogger or journalist. They must be have totally out of ideas and slapped this up for the heck of it.

As to the treatment they got somehow legitimizing their status as journalists I must say I'm finding that pretty hard to buy.

RE: Easily seperable...
By KristopherKubicki on 1/12/2008 3:17:34 PM , Rating: 2
Good points. We'll see if they go out of business because of this though. I sort of think their popularity will just continue to increase.

RE: Easily seperable...
By Mr Roberto on 1/16/2008 7:22:15 PM , Rating: 2
Um, and if their popularity does rise, then it means they are just being good journalists? Is that what we are meant to infer, Kristopher? Like, if someone does something bad or questionable and got away with it, ergo he/she must have been a real journalist?

Sorry, I still am not getting it.

RE: Easily seperable...
By Doormat on 1/13/2008 12:46:45 AM , Rating: 2
"Nobody got fired over their TV getting turned off. No companies lost sales over it either."

Those are both pretty big assumptions. And its definitely too early to determine whether or not anyone will lose sales over it either. Do you think some corporate buyer will check gizmodo and figure out that it was a prank during a press conference. Or will they figure they have crappy TVs and, more importantly, they brought defective TVs to CES to sell to customers.

RE: Easily seperable...
By KristopherKubicki on 1/13/2008 9:52:27 AM , Rating: 2
I do know most of the people in that presentation personally. Many of them were pretty angry, but almost all of the blame does go on whoever set those booths up incorrectly.

Gizmodo might have been the first ones to film it and put it on the Internet, but having someone mess around with the TVs is a pretty recurring theme if you go to the show.

RE: Easily seperable...
By Mr Roberto on 1/16/2008 7:34:32 PM , Rating: 2
"...having someone mess around with the TVs is a pretty recurring theme if you go to the show."

You mean journalists do this kind of thing all the time? Wohoa.

"Many of them were pretty angry, but almost all of the blame does go on whoever set those booths up incorrectly."

So if Giz hadn't done The Stupid and posted the video on their site, those people who "set the booths up incorrectly" would have gotten all of the blame? Wohoa. And a "journalist" did all of that? Wohoa.

PS, I'm an ex-journalist and editor, but I do still care about the craft. Whatever these Blakely and Lam guy are, they don't sound like journalist/editor to me. Your mileage may vary.

Jail Time
By Ringold on 1/12/2008 5:54:38 PM , Rating: 2
I see the philosophy debates going here, but I see Giz as having created news, not reported it. I think reporters can and should report whatever they feel, but if this Lam guy did what would land a normal person in a jail cell over night, then I think he should've been put in jail. Plain and simple. No doctorate in philosophy needed.

Society doesn't care for the fact celebrities face a different set of rules for crime; they are inherently no more special as humans than the rest of us. I don't see what makes the journalist superior either. I see no reason why journalists would need extra protection beyond a virtually unlimited right to free speech. Free speech lets them do their jobs without significant interference, reporting, but doesn't give a blank check for criminal mischief.

This "I'm a journalist!" bologna, I think, gets to some peoples heads.

RE: Jail Time
By anotherdude on 1/12/2008 6:19:19 PM , Rating: 2
If the guy had NOT been a blogger I would have just tossed his a$$ out. Since he was a blogger I agree he should be fined pretty heavily. You gotta suspect they did this to get free pub and hits. I sincerely hope it doesn't just end up putting them on the map. If they get a net gain out of this (sorry, no pun) that will be sad and you'll end up seeing more shameless pub stunts like this.

To end up in court
By crystal clear on 1/13/2008 3:25:12 AM , Rating: 2
If one carefully reads the statements below-

We have been informed of inappropriate behavior on the show floor by a credentialed media attendee from the Web site Gizmodo, owned by Gawker Media. Specifically, the Gizmodo staffer interfered with the exhibitor booth operations of numerous companies, including disrupting at least one press event. The Gizmodo staffer violated the terms of CES media credentials and caused harm to CES exhibitors. This Gizmodo staffer has been identified and will be barred from attending any future CES events. Additional sanctions against Gizmodo and Gawker Media are under discussion.


# Additional sanctions against Gizmodo and Gawker Media are under discussion.

# The Gizmodo staffer violated the terms of CES media credentials and caused harm to CES exhibitors.

# including disrupting at least one press event.

To summarize it all-

This will end in court definitely with some heavy fines handed down by the judge.

The point is....
By Akazar on 1/14/2008 4:45:53 PM , Rating: 2
That a convention that's all about electronics and how innovative they are can be stalled by one little piece of crap electronic device that came out a couple of years ago.

All these years and haven't made one bit of innovation in the common remote control.

By Mr Roberto on 1/16/2008 7:14:22 PM , Rating: 2
I would like to add my puzzled voice to the many that are already here. I fail to see the link between journalistic integrity and what Richard Blakely has done, and Brian Lam/Gizmodo's defense of it.

What does pulling a prank have anything to do with being real journalist? "Because they got away with what they did"? Ummm... Huh?

Oh, one more thing...
By Mr Roberto on 1/16/2008 7:16:58 PM , Rating: 2
How does "sabotaging a trade show" bookend the extreme end of journalism? Should a crime reporter go on a shooting spree in order to create his/her own scoop? Sorry, I am not understanding the logic in Kristopher's response there.

who do they think they are?
By andrewrocks on 1/13/2008 6:19:05 AM , Rating: 1
I'm tired of all this self-righteous bullshit. I am a "BLOGGER" not a "JOURNALIST." Who fucking cares? Great man I am happy you can label yourself. You deserve a pat on the back Gizmodo, you guys are BLOGGERS EXTRAORDINAIRE!! Seriously, at the end of the day how is this significant?

Be it Lam, and/or who ever did the deed these bloggers all seem like they're 15 years old going through some identity crisis. And this stunt further proves my case. Maybe if they took the energy they spent in being morons and put that towards something useful, I might actually find gizmodo more useful than a photo dump of new products.

i hope CEA makes an example out of them.

and i was just starting to like gizmodo, too

Nice prank
By Nik00117 on 1/13/08, Rating: -1
RE: Nice prank
By Serafina on 1/14/08, Rating: -1
RE: Nice prank
By Nik00117 on 1/14/08, Rating: 0
RE: Nice prank
By Mr Roberto on 1/16/2008 7:30:11 PM , Rating: 2
You smell like a Giz shill to me. It's suspicious that there are people like you popping up in all the comments over this issue.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton
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