Why I’m Siding With Gizmodo Over The iPhone 4G

The internet has been buzzing this week since Gizmodo published a detailed report on a “stolen” iPhone 4G.

Along with worldwide media attention (there wasn’t a news outlet in Australia at least that didn’t report Gizmodo’s story) there’s been a pile up of hate directed at the Gawker Media gadget blog, with arguments that their activity was criminal, through to criticism of their decision to name the Apple employee who lost the phone to begin with.

Although Gizmodo is without doubt a good read, I’ve not always been a fan in the past. Their actions at CES last year in disrupting displays and presentations was a despicable low point for the blogging world as a whole, and they deserved the condemnation they received at the time.

On the publication of the iPhone 4G though, I’m with Gizmodo here.

Sure, they probably shouldn’t have exposed the details of the Apple employee who lost the phone to begin with. They may well end up in trouble legally for buying a phone that for all intents and purposes was stolen property (lost property not returned is deemed stolen under law.)

But seriously, can you blame them for publishing what they did?

It was, and will probably always be the scoop of a lifetime for Gizmodo. That Engadget passed on it says more about the corporate culture at AOL, and the fact that the once fiercely independent Weblogs Inc network is really just another extension now of an online media giant.

Blogs pushing boundaries are suppose to do things like Gizmodo has done here, and I’m not the only one to say that given the opportunity (and availability of cash) I would have made the same call, risks be damned.

If the iPhone 4G was a Government document or amazing picture of a celebrity, would we be having the same debate?

There’s a double standard when it comes to context: a good news organization is by its very nature tasked with providing unique news, with scoops being at the forefront of best in kind. That there may be corporate secrets laws for something like the iPhone 4G isn’t really that far removed from the secrets of Government documents; sure, you might argue that the public interest test may not apply to the latter, but public interest in itself is a subjective term.

If Gizmodo made a mistake, it was their over eagerness to prove the validity of the phone by exposing where the phone came from and how they came by it, and if they get into trouble legally, that will be the reason why. But likewise I understand why they’d want to prove that what they’d purchased and published was the real deal.

Congrats to the team at Gizmodo. Not everyone will have your back here, but some of us think you made the right call.