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Jason Chen has embroiled Gizmodo in yet another episode of dumb.  (Source: Gawker Assets)
The iPhone debacle is just the latest episode of dumb for the site's less upstanding members

This week we discovered that some members of tech blog Gizmodo's staff suffer from the same disease that afflicts more than a few across our proud nation -- stupidity.

Actually the signs were there for some time.  In 2004 
Gizmodo reviewed a little product called "TV-B-Gone".  It wrote: asshole (sic). And not just any asshole, but one of those snotty holier-than-thou types who has nothing better to do...than to develop a device with the sole purpose of imposing his viewpoint on others.

Aside from establishing the site's love of the less flowery side of the English language, that post proved ironic when the site used the device for an ill-considered prank at CES 2008, turning off TV sets all around the show, including during a Motorola keynote.  

What was "fun" to the 
Giz folks, was seriously bad news to the companies who paid as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars to speak and exhibit at the show.

In the end 
Giz blogger Richard Blakeley earned a ban for life.

Unfortunately, history has a way of repeating itself, as does stupidity and immaturity.

Let me first say, perhaps I'm being a bit rough on the folks at 
Gizmodo.  The site is home to excellent blogs, which we frequently source or quote, here on DailyTech.  And they employ a number of talented -- and truly funny -- writers.

But as long as the site embraces a devil-may-care attitude that page views are above maintaining journalistic standards, the quality work of many members of the staff will be compromised by the irresponsible few.

A bit over a week ago 
Gizmodo broke the story of the next-gen iPhone they got their hands on.  Unfortunately the editor involved, Jason Chen, made the foolish mistake of making it known that he paid $5,000 for it.  Now he's embroiled in a criminal investigation and his property has been seized.

You can argue Chen was a victim till the cows come home, but the fact of the matter is that you can't legally just take misplaced property and sell it for your own personal gain.  And further, you can't perform industrial espionage and property you knew wasn't owned by the seller – and
admit to it in writing -- and expect nothing to come of it.

Perhaps if Chen hadn't published the $5,000 figure he wouldn't be facing possible charges.  And perhaps if 
Gizmodo didn't personally attack the young software engineer who lost the prototype, I'd feel a bit more sorry for them.

The site can claim all it wants that it was trying to "protect" the employee, but the reality is that they've tainted him for life by airing his name.  Google his name, and that will probably be the first thing that comes up for a long, long time.

That is not responsible journalism.  If someone is abusing a position of power it's one thing to publicly out them, but to target a young software engineer for an innocent mistake is reprehensible.  The Apple engineer was essentially the source of the lead and as a journalist you protect your sources, not out them.  I've pulled stories before to protect the careers of those who contributed.  It's not fun, but when you weigh get a few ad dollars versus ruining someone's career, I believe the latter should be the obvious choice.

Unfortunately it's not so obvious for Chen and some of the 
Gizmodo staffers.  I can only hope that the Apple engineer has the sense to sue Gizmodo, perhaps on character defamation and libel grounds (the published story came off as a personal attack on the engineer based on conjecture, such as speculating that he was drunk when he misplaced the prototype, without personally observing him that evening).

Unfortunately the mess doesn't end there.  Site owner Nick Denton, President of the Gawker network, is personally defending the way the site conducted itself.  And that's a very bad sign.

Throughout the debacle Denton has spewed contradictory statements.  Described Denton in a
Daily Finance interview, "I'm a big believer in responsible journalism -- responsible to one group: our readers.  Anybody who starts to worry too much about Pulitzer Prizes or the opinion of j-school ethicists is going to let down their audience."

And the 
New York Times quotes him as stating, "Are bloggers journalists? I guess we’ll find out."

So you reject the standards of journalism, yet you hope to be called journalists?  And you think that having ethics is "going to let down" your audience?  Intriguing.

And while I feel little sympathy for Chen or Denton, I can't help but feel bad for all the respectable journalists at 
Gizmodo who are being sucked in by this mess.

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no crime here
By the goat on 4/28/2010 8:35:53 AM , Rating: 4
The guy who found the phone gave a good faith effort to return it to apple. They refused to accept the return. At that point apple abandoned the phone and the guy had every right in the world to sell it for personal gain.

Gizmodo did nothing wrong by paying money for the phone. And they did everything right by honestly disclosing the details of the transaction and the history of the phone.

If a writer changes facts or leaves out details they are not a journalist.

RE: no crime here
By epsilonparadox on 4/28/2010 9:08:23 AM , Rating: 3
You can't spin stealing as a good thing. The guy the found the lost device should have taken it to the police if he couldn't return it to Apple. It doesn't transfer owner because he called Apple's CSR and they didn't know/believe what he was saying. There's no time limit on stolen property. Gizmodo enabled the thief by buying the stolen property. Gizmodo bought Apple's trade secrets knowing the device was original obtained under wrongful circumstances and should be legally punished for it.

RE: no crime here
By toyotabedzrock on 4/28/2010 10:28:34 AM , Rating: 1
Would you call the police? After knowing they broke down the door of his house?

They could have subpoenaed the evidence just like they do with other businesses.

RE: no crime here
By epsilonparadox on 4/28/10, Rating: -1
RE: no crime here
By Reclaimer77 on 4/28/2010 8:15:35 PM , Rating: 2
Such a gross abuse of power...

RE: no crime here
By clovell on 4/29/2010 1:00:18 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, and in doing so, they broke down the door. Next question?

RE: no crime here
By Smilin on 4/30/2010 4:44:18 PM , Rating: 2
Don't be so melodramatic.

Don't be so obtuse.

The police didn't break down the door, they executed a search and seizure warrant

Uh genius how do you think they executed that warrant when he wasn't home? That's right they broke down the door.

RE: no crime here
By tmouse on 4/29/2010 9:27:08 AM , Rating: 3
First as long as he was trying to contact the owner it was not stolen.

Doesn't matter who he contacted at Apple as long as he can prove he tried to contact Apple (It's their job to let their people be aware something is missing in case people find them and try to return them and believe me IF a prototype was lost I would have any people who handle calls alerted to this).

It is NOT a trade secret; a parts list of a phone are confidential (until its released) but cannot be trade secrets. The second someone in authority decides there will be a release of information it cannot be called a trade secret, it is confidential and can be covered by a NDA but that's all. There is no such thing as a temporary trade secret.

There is NO requirement to turn things over to the police but you do assume all of the responsibility so it is a wise thing to do. The item is legally just a phone and that's what its value will be for legal interpretation in this case, not super secret prototype or worth $5000. It's being considered a felony because its value will exceed $400 which is the legal limit in CA for a felony.

The guy is in hot water for selling it but Gizmodo is not since the police will have to prove they bought it to deprive Apple from having it that is a key premise for a conviction on receiving stolen goods (the person buying it has to either want to keep it for their own use or to sell it to either another or the user as in demanding a reward)and their actions clearly show the opposite.

RE: no crime here
By dark matter on 5/8/2010 10:38:37 AM , Rating: 2
Wrong on numerous points.

You have to try to contact the "owner" of stolen property, not the "manufacturer".

If you found a Sony Ericsson phone would you really call Sony Ericsson and speak to a CSR?

How likely do you believe that CSR is going to actually believe you and not assume it is a hoax call.

Now if you switched the phone on or the phone was already switched on then you would have Numbers, Names in the address book.

The issue with "found" property is you have to make a "reasonable" attempt to return that property.

Put it this way, if any of us lost a phone and that phone was found, and then sold, would any of you think it was "reasonable" that the person who found the phone never attempted to contact ANYONE in your address book about the lost phone and instead contacted the manufacturer of the phone?

Don't even attempt to say yes, you would make yourself look like a fool as well as a liar.

RE: no crime here
By tmouse on 5/10/2010 7:54:27 AM , Rating: 3
Sorry but there is a BIG difference here. ALL of the prototypes I have worked with have property of X corp. somewhere, either on the device or on the initialization screen. Prototypes are not given out for keeps. That's so they can reserve the lowest serial numbers for the VIPs they give the first runs to. The owner IS Apple NOT they fool who lost it. If he said he may have found a prototype phone and the operator called a CSR they should be fired. Apple should have alerted someone inside their own organization who the public can get a hold of to the loss (it's stupid to just assume no one would ever try to contact them, even the police would just call). I'm not saying the guy was not wrong to sell the phone, the topic is whether Gizmodo received stolen property. There is a REQUIRMENT for the prosecution to PROVE beyond a reasonable doubt that Gizmodo planned to deprive Apple of their property for a conviction of receivership of stolen property charge. This they simple cannot do and if Apple really got the phone back and it was not picked up by the police it is now inadmissible for the finders case.

RE: no crime here
By clovell on 4/29/2010 1:02:31 PM , Rating: 2
They should've called the police, yeah - but there wasn't a chance in hell they KNEW it was a prototype. They may have THOUGHT so, and it may not change the legality/morality of it, but there just isn't any way they could've KNOWN.

Unless we're catching up to the future, doc.

RE: no crime here
By DanNeely on 5/5/2010 3:56:04 PM , Rating: 2
I have to disagree. The person who found it only called an apple call center. Clueful people who can act outside their script are in short supply there. At no point did he talk to the bar tenders where he found the phone to ask if anyone had asked about it: the guy who lost it did so repeatedly in an effort to recover it.

At best he made a half-assed effort to return it; at worst he made a token effort as CYA before going to sell it.

RE: no crime here
By DanNeely on 5/5/2010 3:56:19 PM , Rating: 2
I have to disagree. The person who found it only called an apple call center. Clueful people who can act outside their script are in short supply there. At no point did he talk to the bar tenders where he found the phone to ask if anyone had asked about it: the guy who lost it did so repeatedly in an effort to recover it.

At best he made a half-assed effort to return it; at worst he made a token effort as CYA before going to sell it.

RE: no crime here
By AssBall on 4/28/10, Rating: -1
RE: no crime here
By the goat on 4/28/2010 1:40:02 PM , Rating: 5

Seriously? You think people should call the police every time somebody finds a misplaced cellphone. I'm pretty certain the police are busy investigating real crimes. Tracking down the owner of a misplaced cell phone (who doesn't even call the phone and ask for its return) is not a job for the police.

RE: no crime here
By Mortando on 4/29/2010 11:45:35 AM , Rating: 3
Seriously? You think people should call the police every time somebody finds a misplaced cellphone.

No way, apparently tech sites are giving 5 grand a pop for them!

RE: no crime here
By AssBall on 4/30/10, Rating: -1
RE: no crime here
By HrilL on 5/1/2010 12:33:31 PM , Rating: 4
If the theif can't find a way to return the phone to it's owner, then he shouldn't have taken it.

Since when is someone finding something a thief? Last I checked thief's don't try to return the things they stole. The guy attempted to return it. Also the law doesn't say you are required to turn it in to the police. The only mistake this guy made was selling the phone. He should have gave it to a news site to help him find the owner. And they did find the owner and returned the phone to them...

RE: no crime here
By tmouse on 4/29/2010 9:42:54 AM , Rating: 3
Once he sold it, he was no longer acting in good faith, until then he was. Please tell us your sources of who he called? If an important item is lost or presumed stolen you are telling me you would not let the people who answer your phones know this? Pray tell how would they know what to tell the police if they called about the phone? If he turned it over to the police it would more than likely languish in a lost in found, or do you really think the police assign detectives to find the owners of lost phones? It seems he did try to call someone at Apple, probably hoping for a reward, he probably was told it was not theirs by someone who works for Apple (that meets the legal requirement of contacting the owner it's Apple's responsibility to make sure it's people know if there is something missing that someone could call and inquire about returning). He crossed the line when he sold it. The smart thing would have been to say well Apple says it isn't theirs put an ad in several local papers saying cell phone found in bar, let the police have it saying it's a cell phone you found in a bar and inquire every month for a year then it would become his to sell to a collector. It woiuld have value because prototypes are often destroyed after product release.

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