Ryan Block on the Gizmodo/iPhone fiasco – are we overreacting?

Fri, Apr 23, 2010

Analysis, News

Ryan Block, former editor-in-chief of Engadget provides a balanced opinion on what he calls the “greatest gadget scoop” he’s ever seen.

Without getting into my own interpretation of the (supposed) events that led to the greatest gadget scoop I’ve ever seen — and whether it was indeed ill-gotten — I think it bears noting that there are almost never scoops in the tech world that are not born out of some illegality. At Engadget, when we’d publish a breaking story that no one else had, what you are actually witnessing was the act of someone betraying their team and breaking their NDA with at least one party (if not sometimes more). For the person providing the scoop, they almost always just broke the law with no ifs, ands, or buts… Publications are well within their journalistic rights to publish this information, but the process behind the scenes isn’t always pretty.

You know, he raises a good point. People are all up in arms as if they’ve never seen a gadget scoop before. Truth be told, the pages of Gizmodo and Engadget are consistently filled with pictures and specs of products that are often published months in advance of their release. And you know what? Most people don’t really care about the ethics of those revelations. What makes the iPhone 4G scoop so compelling, though, is that it involved Apple, a company who won’t even admit that a rumored product exists. So with all that extra attention and intrigue comes a whole lot of extra scrutiny.

That, however, is only one part of the equation.

Apple’s secretive ways aside, Gizmodo’s iPhone 4G scoop was unique for another reason. Whereas most scoops are the result of emailed internal documents and blurry photos, Gizmodo’s windfall involved the actual acquisition of a prototype device. More than that, Gizmodo paid cold hard cash for a product they reasonably should have assumed could be considered stolen property. So rather than sitting back and casually checking their inbox for emails re: product leaks, Gizmodo made a pro-active effort to obtain a physical product it had no legal right to have in their possession. And that, I feel, is why most people are ridiculously peeved at Gizmodo’s actions. Well that and the fact that they published the name of the Apple engineer responsible for losing the device, for presumably no other reason than to generate more page views.

That said, the fall out and shouting matches emanating from Gizmodo’s iPhone 4G story remind me of Chris Rock’s quip about race in the wake of the OJ Simpson acquittal. “Black people too happy, white people too mad.”



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