Gizmodo’s prank at CES was wonderful: they walked around with a TV-B-Gone turning off televisions at display booths and even during presentations. Many of Gizmodo’s commenter’s aren’t happy about it, but I’m delighted. In too many fields, journalists (including bloggers) are too damn close and cozy with their subjects, because their subjects are also their advertisers. It’s always a good sign to see someone willing to bite the hand that purportedly feeds them. Ostensible displays of independence are always appreciated.
Update #2: The point is not to suck up to the consumer electronics industry; if it takes a dumb prank to signal that you’re not completely servile to the industry you cover, so be it.
Update #3: Gizmodo in its own defence:
[W]hen I see some fellow press damning us for the joke, I feel sorry for them: When did journalists become the protectors of corporations? When did this industry, defined by pranksters like Woz, get so serious and in-the-pocket of big business? … Consumer electronics tech journalism is very tricky. Those who strictly cover commercial CE depend on a powerful handful of companies for the very lifeblood of their content. That’s a dangerous position. …
Many of our harshest critics have done far worse than clicking off a few TVs. I’m talking about ethical lapses such as accepting paid junkets to Japan by Nikon, or free trips to Korea by Samsung. Turning a blind eye to Apple’s mistakes when they didn’t make an iPhone SDK and sought to lock down the handset. Stock prices torn downward by publishing incorrect leaked info. Writing about companies that also pay you for advertorial podcast work. All of these examples are offenses from the last year. And I consider those offenses far worse than our prank, because it ultimately it puts the perpetrators on the wrong team. As one reporter put it while chiding me, “Journalists are guests in the houses of these companies.” Not first and foremost! We are the auditors of companies and their gadgets on behalf of the readers. In this job, integrity and independence is far more important than civil or corporate obedience.
Repeat after me: Journalism. Is. Adversarial.