One of the things I do to try to keep up on all things geek-related is to follow various tech-related blogs. I’m generally not too interested in most of the things that get posted there, but occasionally I come across something I feel like sharing here.
One of the blogs that I used to follow was Gizmodo. (Not linked for reasons you will see later.) They are part of the Gawker media collection of websites, which also provides the excellent Lifehacker and gaming blog Kotaku . I was not impressed with the general tone of snark in Gizmodo, and their tendency to have wall-to-wall Apple gadget coverage, and when I started to read Engadget in parallel with Gizmodo I realized that Engadget had stories first and provided more balanced coverage of the tech scene. As a result I decided to drop Gizmodo from my RSS feeds.
On April 19th Gizmodo ran a story providing details about Apple’s next generation iPhone. Nothing revolutionary about that in and of itself - what was interesting was the way they came across the information. Apparently an Apple developer had lost the phone at a bar and a source then sold the phone to Gizmodo for $5000. The blog then went wall-to-wall with coverage of the device, as well as outing the employee who lost it. Besides the obvious concerns about checkbook journalism, another question arises: did Gizmodo buy stolen property in order to break a story? And why the need to plaster the employee’s name all over their blog?
This is not the first time Gizmodo has engaged in questionable activities. In 2007 Gizmodo editor Brian Lam posted a video of him going through a swag bag he received for the Halo3 premiere, talking about how it all was crap and throwing stuff over his shoulder in his hotel room. After receiving some negative comments about him trashing a bunch of rare Halo items that plenty of gamers would be happy to get their hands on, Lam posted a follow-up where he re-packed the bag, chucked it off a balcony, and spoiled Halo3’s ending. In 2008 credentialed Gizmodo staff attending CES ran around shutting down flat panel displays with a TV-B-Gone, resulting in Gawker Media getting banned from future CES shows and leading CES to question whether bloggers should be credentialed.
I don’t want to suggest for a minute that I think Live Geek or Die is on the same level as blogs like Gizmodo, but I do question why some blogs feel that breaking news about a tech device is worth engaging in tactics that would give traditional media pause. Gawker media has been very aggressive in bashing traditional media at every step, but sometimes adhering to old fashioned things like “journalistic ethics” isn’t such a bad thing. Blogs are so obsessed with getting a story out that they frequently have to publish retractions, which could be avoided just with some simple fact-checking or holding the story for a few hours. Blogs have the potential to offer a lot to their readers, but they need to understand that they have a responsibility to educate their readers, not just titillate them.