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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: Easily seperable...
By KristopherKubicki (blog) 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 (blog) 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 (blog) 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.


"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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