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.

"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot

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