I’m mad. Really mad.
For those of you who are out of the loop, I’ll fill you. Several days ago, an anonymous source sent images to Engadget, featuring what was alleged to be the upcoming fourth generation iPhone.
Monday morning, Gizmodo took the story a lot further. They revealed to the world that they were in possession of the same unit from Engadget’s pictures. They wrote a thousand-plus word article covering every aspect of this alleged iPhone.
I’m still shocked at their gall.
When you take the story at face value, it all seems pretty to explain away. After all, Gizmodo is a news site competing in a market where whoever has the story first makes the most money. And I hope, for their sake, that they’re making a bundle off of this story. Because all of the money has the potential to disappear very easily.
In the article they released this morning, there was no direct mention of what they company went through to obtain the unit. Andy Ihnatko seems to have the best summary of what has thus far been revealed.
Step One: This phone was lost in a Redwood City bar;
Step Two: (nervous cough);
Step Three: They got it last week.
Despite the lack of transparency surrounding this particular interaction, Nick Denton confirmed to the New York Times that Gawker Media paid five thousand dollars for the unit.
According to all tellings of the story, the device was originally lost in a bar in Redwood City, California. Here’s an interesting fact: under California law, the finder of a lost item must alert the police and return the items to the rightful owner. Do you see what I’m getting at? Both Gizmodo and the anonymous finder say that the device was indeed found, not stolen.
However, it doesn’t make a difference in California. If the device was indeed found in a bar in Redwood City, then the finder did had the obligation to turn it over to the authorities. When he didn’t the “iPhone” effectively became stolen property. Which Gizmodo then bought. If this alleged iPhone is indeed the property of Apple then there could be some serious legal consequences for Gawker Media.
Legal issues aside, what the folks at Gizmodo did was simply unnecessary. This wasn’t a Woodward and Bernstein scenario. There was no real need for the information about this alleged iPhone to be exposed. There wasn’t any noble intent behind this story. All of Gizmodo’s actions were motivated by greed. When Gizmodo purchased the (illegally obtained) unit, the weren’t thinking of the lives that would be enriched by their story. They were thinking of the money that they could make off of a scoop like this.
But the story doesn’t end there. Only hours after the Gizmodo released the initial story, they published a second article. Rather than talking about the unit itself, or even discuss how the phone ended up in their hands, they chose the specifically target the Apple employee who left the phone in the bar.
Of course, there are scenarios in which this type of article would be appropriate. If this had been a story about a Visa employee who got drunk and leaked thousands of credit card numbers, perhaps this type of personal attack would be merited.
Unfortunately for Gizmodo, this is not the case. No one outside of Apple was hurt by this employee’s actions. There was no need for this second article to be published. The man is likely at one of the darkest points in his life. He makes one stupid mistake, probably losses his job, and then has his misery exploited so that a company can make a profit.
There is no excuse for this type of behaviour. They buy stolen property, they publish an unnecessary article, likely caused a man his job and proceeded to publicly humiliate him.
But hey, at least they want to give the phone back. So I guess that makes everything better.
Apple SVP and General Counsel Bruce Sewell sent a letter to Gizmodo requesting the return of the unit. Brian Lam (an editor at Gizmodo) responded with a message that included this quote:
Happy to have you pick this thing up. Was burning a hole in our pockets. Just so you know, we didn’t know this was stolen when we bought it.
Stolen. Not lost. Stolen. Interesting.