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.
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
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
"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.