An engineer from Apple reportedly ‘lost’ a prototype of the next version of the iPhone. An unidentified man ‘found’ said iPhone (I say ‘lost’ and ‘found’ because we have only the unidentified man’s word for the veracity of this scenario). Despite the fact that the mystery man found a plethora of information about the engineer within the iPhone itself, rather than returning the device (or turning it over to the authorities) he chose instead to sell the phone for $5,000 to Gizmodo.
Gizmodo, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is what is commonly referred to as a Gadget Blog. Also referred to as Technology Porn, it is one of many such blogs that make their living by gushing over the latest and greatest high-tech gadgets in the marketplace.
Jason Chen is the blogger at Gizmodo who subsequently posted an item about the iPhone. Gizmodo even went so far as to post pictures of the iPhone in a dismantled state. And they stepped way over the line by posting the name of the engineer who ‘lost’ the phone (the lie they told to justify this bit of sensationalist crap is that they were ‘protecting’ the engineer because Apple wouldn’t dare fire him after Gizmodo posted his name. As if Apple wouldn’t just go ahead and fire an engineer who misplaced such a device anyway).
This all raised a pretty big stink out in the interwebs, and much discussion of the issue occurred. And then it pretty much faded away. That is, until Friday, when law enforcement officials showed up at Chen’s house with a warrant and took away a truckload of electronics in the form of computers, hard-drives, cameras and whatnot. Naturally, many assume that Apple is behind the warrant. Personally, until this development I suspected Apple of being complicit in the whole story in an attempt to garner publicity for their new device (I’m sure they could use some after the lack of excitement over the iPad).
Anyway, you can imagine the gnashing of teeth surrounding the whole affair. The warrant evidently stated that the gadgetry seized from Chen’s residence may have been “used as a means of committing a felony” or could “show a felony has been committed.” It seems pretty clear that Chen and Gizmodo knew damn well that they were breaking the law (I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they didn’t know it was a felony).
Gizmodo, through their COO, is claiming that the warrant was invalid because Chen should be covered by state and federal ‘shield’ laws because Chen is a journalist. Journalists’ notes, pictures, data and such are not supposed to be seizable by warrant. Rather, courts are supposed to subpoena the journalist for such items.
I’m sorry, but I really have to draw the line at this ‘journalist’ crap. Calling Gizmodo (or the bulk of the rest of the gadget blogs) ‘journalism’ is pure douchebaggery and an insult to all true journalists in this world. Have you read any of these blogs? Their ‘stories’ consist of no more than a few paragraphs (often only one) that take one of two forms: the first is a direct copy-and-paste from a real article the ‘author’ then links to. The second is just a hastily-scrawled, poorly written and invariably misspelled blurb (I would like to dispel the fiction that misspelled words in articles posted on the internet can be excused simply by calling them ‘typos’. Originally, typographical errors described spelling errors that occurred during the type-setting part of the publishing process. This was a phenomenon specific to printed media, and the distinction was made to point out that the error was beyond the author’s control. In the case of articles published on the internet, misspellings are solely the responsibility of the author, and are indicative of a lazy and/or sloppy over-reliance on spell-checkers).
Edward R. Murrow was a journalist. Bill Moyers is a journalist. Journalists go to dangerous places and take personal risks to report stories that are of actual import to human beings. Journalism is most certainly not about the latest celebrity break-up. Nor is it about the latest shiny bauble up for sale. There is a world of difference between news and gossip. The business of journalists is news. Blogs, on the other hand, are most often in the business of gossip.
If, for some bizarre reason, there are state and federal laws protecting gossips (or douchebags), then Chen should enjoy their protection. If no such laws exist, Chen and the company he works for should get spanked. Hard. What they do is not journalism, and they should not be allowed to wrap themselves in journalism’s protective blanket just by claiming they deserve it. That blanket should be reserved for people who have actually earned it.