Don’t lose track of reality in Gizmodo-iPhone-Apple mess

The first thing you’ll notice in this post is this is going to be one of the rare ones where I don’t link to anything. There’s been a lot of shadiness as far as the way this story has progressed to the point where I’m not going to risk giving page views to Gizmodo.

That said, here are my thoughts on the iPhone story as it stands.

I don’t believe a lot of the story that’s been told so far. Yes the basic facts are true: A guy lost his phone in a bar, someone found it, got money for it and a site got a bunch of hits. But the details keep changing and are too murky.

I’m offended by the possibility of Gizmodo being protected under the California Shield Law. While I’m all for having protection for reporters — bloggers included — Gizmodo has done nothing but make a mockery of the journalism process.

They outed the Apple engineer who lost the phone. I could understand if there was an ounce of newsworthiness to this, but nothing good or important will come of this. It’s just gossip and dragging someone into the public spotlight who didn’t need to be.

But by far the thing that offends me the most is the fact they paid their source. That $5,000 in itself is a slippery slope. If you start creating an economy in which sources are paid for news stories, you open up an authenticity wormhole.

As has been the case throughout this ordeal, stories have changed as the police begin questioning. What started as a scoop on a new piece of technology quickly turned into a tale of questionable ethics run amok. Gizmodo went from trumpeting the fact it paid $5,000 to get the phone to saying it was merely a fee to a source and not for the phone. When it realized that under California law that it’s a no-no to knowingly buy stolen property, its story changed.

This is a symptom of what happens when information becomes the property of the highest bidder instead of those who look for sources and dig for information. Gizmodo bought a massive scoop without thinking of the ramifications and threw it up as quickly as they could behind a wall of exclusivity. They didn’t stop to check the facts. They didn’t stop to check the laws. They rushed the story to get the most bang for their buck. And yes, they succeeded in the short term. But in the long run, things may not be so rosy.

Of course Gizmodo is now the victim in this case of a big mean justice system coming down hard on them by raiding one of its employees apartments. I just hope people don’t excuse the mountain of wrongs that Gizmodo has committed just because an overzealous district attorney wanted to grab headlines.

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