Gizmodo vs iPhone 4G: Have Techie Sites 'Gone Tabloid'?
Tabloid Journalism, sometimes referred to as the 'gutter press' or 'checkbook journalism' because of its tendency to sensationalize gossip and rumor, often times pays sources for an inside scoop. Gizmodo's recent bombshell story release of the secret next-generation iPhone found in a Silicon Valley Bar treads this fine line.
The iPhone 4G expose' could possibly be the biggest scoop to hit technology journalism in the last decade, and Gizmodo is eating up the 8 million+ Page-views, 35,000 Retweets and 9000 Diggs (as of this posting), and the (undisclosed) lucrative boost in advertising sales as a result. (side note: curious similarity between the Gizmodo spokesperson in this video and Jon Gosselin! - but that's probably the makings of another story!)
But how does Gawker's publisher Nick Denton paying $5000-10,000 for the story (dependent on whose account you believe) provide Gizmodo with any more credibility than it does "The Star" tabloid that exposes one of Tiger Wood's or Jesse James' latest mistresses for one of their sex confessionals? Isn't the end result the same? Hasn't factual evidence been compromised?
The rumors of the alleged device are still uncorroborated by Apple as the 'real deal.' There is a lot of referencing to 'deep throat' type sources inside and offsite of the Apple campus. And if Gizmodo is willing to take this leap over to the 'Dark Side,' how soon will it be before others follow suit? Nick Denton has already made it clear that he's willing to take criticism for this type of journalism and revels because his readers love this type of stuff - witness this tweet from MattSpringer found on Denton's incoming Twitter stream.
Also teasing his readers, Denton's follow-up tweet is baiting the hook to capture additional readership attention.
In a BoingBoing post by Rob Beschizza, the writer is somewhat ambivalent as to what side of the fence he sits on pertaining to this controversy. On the one hand, he thinks it was a excellent idea in publishing the gadget-blogging-scoop of the decade, but on the other - he thinks that 'outing' the Apple engineer who lost the prototype overshadows the scoop and presents Gizmodo in a negative light.
Seems to me, if you're going to 'purchase' a story, why would you run with half of the data? Beschizza intimates the reason to have held back on the engineer's identity was where Gizmodo received the backlash. So fear of reprisal should be the reason to only serve up 50 percent of the story? If you're going to use rumor, gossip and one's checkbook to secure a story, I don't think degrees of moral sensibility makes your publication appear any less culpable.
Calling 'a spade, a spade' is something that Rupert Murdoch doesn't shy away from, and these are the journalistic tactics that his publishing teams utilize everyday. The question boils down to whether technology journalism is crossing the line and adapting the Murdoch Doctrine. And if so, in this Web 2.0 world we live in, are we now going to have a difficult time distilling truth from fiction.
If social media has provided us with a new lens to examine who we can trust, aren't we trespassing the boundaries of sensationalism and what the last century use to call "yellow journalism?" What would the Yellow Kid and kidd millennium have to say about this? Your thoughts readers?