I’m a journalist, a staunch defender of the First Amendment, someone who grew up on George Orwell and the fear of Big Brother, I’m worried about the consolidation of mass media and the co-option of much of the internet by goliath media companies, and I personally hope that everyone who knew anything about the News International Hacking scandal serves time in jail.
But I cannot believe the moral rectitude and utter lack of personal reflection with which journalists like Alexis Madrigal are writing about Twitter shutting down Guy Adams account — after Adams tweeted out to the world the email address of NBC executive, Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, as part of the chorus of viewers complaining about NBC’s tape-delaying of the broadcast of many of the premiere events of the Olympic Games.
You can read many of Adam’s vitriolic tweets about NBC and Zenkel on Deadspin. Of course. (And I say that as a good thing. Honest.)
Was Twitter wrong to break its own policy and go out of it’s way to alert NBC that Zenkel’s email address had been published and that NBC should feel free to file a complaint, which basically was expedited and resulted in Adam’s account being shut down? (It’s since been reinstated, and Twitter has mea culpa‘d the fact that it did not follow its own policy.)
Yes. Twitter was wrong. And that’s no small problem.
BUT CAN WE PLEASE HAVE A MOMENT OF SANITY.
This is exactly why 99% of the people who hate the press—and by my count that’s about 99% of everybody—really hate the press.
Because “journalists” like Guy Adams just don’t give a crap about who they shoot in their drive-by shooting form of “journalism.”
And I’ve put “journalist” and “journalism” in quotes not because Adams isn’t a real journalist, he is, but because I don’t think that his tweets necessarily qualify as real journalism. (And, please, don’t interpret that to mean that I don’t think Adam’s tweets deserve full First Amendment protection, because they do.)
If Adams actually cared about other people he would have thought for a second about the implications of publishing Zenkel’s email, and then if he was a smart, compassionate journalist he never would have done it.
First, here’s what it means:
It means that an executive who has worked 40-60 hour weeks and given most of his adult life to the broadcasting of the Olympic Games basically had his email hacked. He didn’t have any information stolen but it was rendered useless. Guy Adams might as well have hired some hackers to stick a worm in Gary Zenkel’s email account. And as a result:
An executive partially in charge of a multibillion dollar investment suddenly had his major form of communication rendered useless.
If Guy Adams had thought about the implications of his actions in advance, would he still have published Zenkel’s address? I don’t know. He might have. But I hope not.
I hope that, instead, he would have found some other way to aggregate all of the people in the world who felt as truly pissed off about NBC’s Olympic coverage as he does and help them make an enormous splash—a truly loud bang—to which NBC and Comcast executives would have had to respond to, immediately and after the Games.
He could have picked up the phone or emailed any of a number of the NBC media executives and communications officers who are working around the clock in London and asked them for a comment—or to get an interview with Zenkel—and then he could have carped and crapped on all of them, whether or not they got back to him. (And from my long-time experience, they would have gotten back to him.)
The fact that, as Adams and others have said, Zenkel’s email address could be found doing a simple google search doesn’t make it fair game.
I’m sure I could find Guy Adams home address on the web, and his cell, and a lot of other information about him and his family. And as a journalist I could print it and claim First Amendment protection, and I could get any number of really great lawyers to defend me for free on those grounds. But that wouldn’t make it right.
And it wouldn’t make it smart.
And it wouldn’t make it insightful.
And it wouldn’t bring anything of value to my audience.
It would just be a malicious, thoughtless thing to do.
So. as I read the coverage by really smart and insightful, passionate observers of the media world like Jeff Jarvis and the folks who are writing about this for the NY Times, I just wish that somewhere in their defense of the First Amendment and their desire to call to account the folks at Twitter and NBC… I just wish somewhere in their posts and articles and opinion pieces they would find a couple of lines to say whether or not they would have done what Guy Adams did.
And I wish real hard that they would say that they would not have done what Guy Adams did.
I never would. And none of the great journalists I grew up with ever would. Dick Schaap never would. Jimmy Breslin never would. Tom Wolfe never would. Nora Ephron never would. Ted Kopell never would. Frank Deford never would. Armen Keteyian never would. (And before you go saying it’s a generational thing: Bill Simmons never would.)
Guy Adams did.
Full Disclosure: As many of you know, I’m a contributing writer for Fortune Magazine, and as such I recently wrote an article about NBC Sports… in my past life—in the late 80s and early 90s—I was a producer at NBC Sports and Olympics… and I’ve known most of the major players there for a couple of decades at least… and I’ve known Gary Zenkel for about 20 years.
My gut tells me that if I had never met Gary Zenkel or anyone else at NBC that I still would have written this post exactly the same way.
But that’s for you to decide.
This content is published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 license.