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Reflections on the Gizmodo scandal thing at CES 2008

It’s been a while since we’ve come across the topic of the thin line between bloggers and journalists. After being involved in one event after the other, I’ve come to realize that this really isn’t an issue between bloggers and journalists, but more of an issue with emerging media – that includes corporations slowly accepting the credibility of other online portals and not just blogs per se. So it really is a “name game” as they say it. Local online networks like Yehey!, Click the City, and for instance have become accredited sources of information for different things.

I guess the worldwide online medium needed some time to grow and prove itself as a professional medium – not professional in the sense that it is an industry, but profession in the sense that several entities in the industry can make names for themselves. The industry likes names.

But names can really go a long way, and if that name crosses the line, you have what you call a “scandal.”

There is a divided camp in the recent Gizmodo CS 2008 scandal where the staff were brought in with full press credentials. The staff pulled a dirty prank during the show with several TV-BGONE remote controls shutting down every single IrDA compatible television. The CES sent an official statement which reads:

We have been informed of inappropriate behavior on the show floor by a credentialed media attendee from the Web site Gizmodo, owned by Gawker Media. Specifically, the Gizmodo staffer interfered with the exhibitor booth operations of numerous companies, including disrupting at least one press event. The Gizmodo staffer violated the terms of CES media credentials and caused harm to CES exhibitors. This Gizmodo staffer has been identified and will be barred from attending any future CES events. Additional sanctions against Gizmodo and Gawker Media are under discussion.

Some bloggers have been working on become accredited sources of information in their own niches. Although blogging and media in the US isn’t as dynamic as the things we have here in the Philippines (comparatively speaking, we have more bloggers attending events – and more importantly, more companies trusting bloggers as accredited sources of information. There is a professional term for this: key opinion leader). I hope nothing like this happens back here. What Gizmodo did is being classified under vandalism:

It’s not for the prankster to decide when they’ve stepped across the line, or when something might hurt someone else. Most of these naysayers out there are profoundly not in the same industry as people can and do lose their jobs over this kind of incident – wether one did or not isn’t the point, it’s that it can happen, and they still decided that was fine.

Is it ok to go into a wedding or funeral with an air-horn? The victims determine when the line’s been crossed, not the person with the horn who said “it was only a joke”.

Bloggers have worked hard to legitimize their existance as journalists, this kind of thing goes a long way to vindicating the naysayers and setting things back. [comment]

Andy Pargh of the Gadget Guru has been covering CES for over 20 years. He writes an insightful comment from the perspective of someone who’s seen CES mature to what it is today:

Many have forgotten how the CES came to fruition. First and foremost, this show, like other trade shows have a single purpose: For manufacturers to get its products into the distribution cycle. However over the years this has changed and the show floor has been overrun, not by dealers and retailers, but by wannabe press people and those not in the industry just clogging the isles. Due to this “mess,” many manufacturers no longer spend the big bucks on massive displays and opt to show their new lineups in private hotel suites. This fact has made it difficult, if not impossible to cover these shows in an efficient manner. [comment]

The point I want to convey is that this isn’t an issue of blogging or journalism. From a wide angle perspective, this is what you can refer to as the growing pains of the industry as it adopts to new kinds of exposure. I agree that what they did was very unprofessional (they had press badges from the reports) but in a way, it is a rude wake up call to trade shows as well that the consumer knows more about what’s out there and shouldn’t be fooled.

Would I do the same thing? Nah. I’ll stick to asking the hard-to-answer questions during press conferences.

By Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast and sitting Techbology Editor for The Philippine STAR.

He is also an EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

6 replies on “Reflections on the Gizmodo scandal thing at CES 2008”

I’m curious, how is what this blogger did “a rude wake up call to trade shows as well that the consumer knows more about what’s out there and shouldn’t be fooled.”

Was he protesting something? Who was CES fooling? Was he pissed that “real press” were being given preferential treatment over bloggers? If so, then all he did was prove the CES organizers that they were right to do so, because bloggers are irresponsible and ought not to be at the events.

Do I agree with that? Of course not. Hell, I go to engadget everyday, and they probably have the best CES coverage of any news outlets. But that’s the image pranksters like this will give the blogging community. That they’re irresponsible dicks.

And that’s at the heart of the issue. You’re right, it’s not about the difference between blogging and journalism. It’s about being responsible, and not being a dick.

Very bad thing Gizmodo did. The culprit was a bored camera man who thinks he’s too cool for gadgets. And the decision to publish them (Brian Lam’s) was dictated by Gizmodo’s relatively low traffic during the early days of CES, compared to Engadget. Because of that post, which now has 480k views, Gizmodo is on top of Engadget based on Alexa.

Anyone who has seen Howard Stern, Steven Colbert, the Jackass gang and others in action knows that “mainstream media” can be as guilty of practical jokes as anyone else.

The Gizmodo crew could defend their actions the same way hackers who choose to disclose a security flaw in a dramatic way — they’re alerting companies about a vulnerability of the way they’ve set up their company trade show booth, or website, or online app.

I’m not convinced the damage they caused was terrible, but they obviously got carried away. Maybe more trade show displays will have better security built-in, but whoever gets to turn on and tune the 50-TV display by hand will be cursing Gizmodo, who have drawn attention to the remote control vulnerability.

eric, i know you write a PR blog — from the looks of it, the group that would be most affected would be the PR agency in charge of CES. i dunno. there are just so many angles one can use to tackle this issue. for me, it was easily link bait for gizmodo, as what BrianB mentioned.

What they did seems to be more to the style of Sacha Baron Cohen more than anything else. And there are repercussions to what they did, although in an ipso facto manner. I do not think that this is last time we are going to see this.

Eric: I’d say there’s a slight difference between what hackers do and what those pranksters did. Hackers attack supposedly secure sits like banks or government institutions, which are supposed to be secure.

I don’t think that it behooves TV manufacturers in any way to make sure that their TVs are dick-proof. It’s like if a guy came in there and battered a slim HDTV with a sledgehammer, could he claim he was doing it to prove that manufacturers were making their TVs out of cheap plastic?

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