Monday, January 14, 2008

Be careful what you wish for...

I mentioned earlier that when you're at CES, you tend to be on news blackout. I'd like to thank my friends (especially tkrein and mmorey) who were sending links my way to try to keep me in the loop on what was going on at the show. Some items, like coverage of OtterBox's excellent products, I was fortunate enough to know about from first-hand experience. Other items were compelling reading, like how Panasonic transported their 3 150" plasma TVs from Japan to Las Vegas. But, often, you only hear about the show's big newsmakers once you've managed to get home and decompress for a day. Such is the case with the Gizmodo prank, using TV-B-Gone remotes to turn off the televisions being shown in many booths. No need for me to re-hash the prank here; the blogosphere is manic with coverage.

However, in all this mania, I think a key point has been missed, or at least overlooked. The blogger community is continually striving to gain additional respect, a happy medium between the "real" press and anybody with a keyboard and a Blogger or WordPress account. Now, I barely count as a blogger--with an entire week of this medium under my belt, yes, I'm a blogger, but definitely a newb. And I certainly don't qualify as a journalist; sure, I went to Northwestern, home of one of the finest journalism schools in the country, but anything I picked up there would've been by diffusion, entirely dependent on which way the wind was blowing.

After my posts on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, I was marveling at how guys like Eric Savitz and Dean Takahashi manage to be both on publication deadline and blogging regularly. These guys (and so many others) are helping old-line journalism meet new school immediacy; we as readers are all better for it, so it's irrelevant what they call themselves. They're journalists who blog. Cool.

But what's annoying me is that both the press and the blogosphere are stuck in this debate of whether Gizmodo's prank has screwed it up for bloggers, and whether bloggers won't be welcomed back to CES (or other shows) because of how big of a chucklehead Richard Blakely is. Make no mistake--he's a chucklehead, and a big one at that.

[Oh, and to all those who commented that the prank was innocuous because nobody was hurt, I'd love to have you responsible for a Bill Gates demo, a trade show presence for a big CES vendor, or a new product rollout. If you think that Panasonic, Motorola, weren't "hurt" by this stunt, you also must believe that the Keebler elves pull shows together. And that they make the stock market go up and down. And that they are responsible for the success (or failure) of product launches. People *were* hurt when those TVs started going off, whether they were panicked demo techs trying to figure out where they went wrong, product managers who immediately doubted their products' readiness for a CES launch, or the investor relations crowd who had to contemplate what a failed demo/launch would do to the company's stock.]

This shouldn't be an argument about whether Blakely screwed things up for bloggers. This shouldn't be an argument about whether bloggers are bad and journalists are good. And this shouldn't be an argument about whether bloggers deserve their "rightful place" and recognition at trade shows. In fact, this shouldn't be an argument at all. 

Unfortunately, the Gizmodo stunt crossed the line from reporting the news to being the news. The shame is, this year's CES was so devoid of buzz that a prank like this not only became newsworthy, it became the single biggest story of the show.  If there's an argument to be had, it should be over why so little of note came out of the show, not what potential harm a single individual might've done to a very loosely affiliated class of folks called bloggers.  I'd guess that the perpetrators thought they'd simply have a little fun, post their video, and laugh it off as an opportunity to upstage Engadget and other competitors. But, they forgot two things. First, in trying to make yourself the story, you can do so *way* too well. Secondly, be careful what you wish for.

You can't un-ring a bell.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree with you more. Perhaps I'm just old, but I don't find jackass's funny.

    But I'd also say that the tech lead for each booth that fell victim to the prank ought to be fired. Anyone with a brain knows to cover the IR with cardboard, electrical tape, or even silly putty. Those numbnuts left the booth personnel swinging on a frayed rope.