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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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).

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
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