The Gillmor Gang was today. We started things off with a nice talk about Rajeev Motwani and his contributions to the community. That was nice.
Then Leo Laporte started talking about the Palm Pre, which launches today. That part of the show, which turned as ugly as a show can turn, is in the video clip embedded above. The unedited audio file of the show is here, you can listen to the pre show banter and the first bit about Motwani before the train wreck.
I ask Leo whether he bought the Pre or got it free and in advance of the launch, which I think is relevant because Palm is being very picky about who they give them out to. We were promised one but it wasn’t delivered. We suspect our critical coverage may be the reason, one other blogger I spoke to is in the same situation. Many of the pre-launch reviews are overtly positive, and we’re comparing those reviews where the journalist got a free Pre in advance of launch to the less cheerful ones written by people who had to pay for the device. Getting a high profile device in advance is a huge advantage, and is a conflict of interest that should be disclosed in our opinion. But the catch is this - as long as Palm sends out a letter with the device asking for it back in a week, it isn’t considered a financial conflict of interest. The fact that few people ever return them is rarely brought up.
Anyway, Leo lost it and shut down the show. I’ve had a lot of interactions with him and they’ve always been positive. Or at least I thought so. I wasn’t watching the video live during the show and I really thought Leo was joking until the very end (as did Steve Gillmor and Loren Feldman, who were chuckling in the video). My “what are you going to do about it” comment doesn’t sound so great in hindsight. But I really did just think he was joking around.
We’re under so much scrutiny at TechCrunch (read the last two paragraphs here) that i guess I don’t always stop and think about the fact that most journalists are never questioned, and don’t react particularly well when they are. We were once, for example, accused of a conflict of interest when we wrote a story about a product and I happened to be a “friend” on Facebook with the PR person for the company. So you could say I’ve had to develop a thick skin when it comes to questions about conflicts of interest. And I don’t consider asking a journalist to disclose if a device he says he loves was given to him for free or not as being a particularly trollish thing to do.
I’m bummed this has to be an issue on a day that we’re all mourning the loss of such an important member of our community. And I’m sad that my professional relationship with Leo is apparently over. I apologize to you, Leo. I didn’t mean to imply that you were being unethical. I just think that, given the story that’s brewing about favoritism at Palm, it was important to disclose whether you paid for that Pre, and/or got it in advance.
I think I’ll go take Laguna for a walk now and try this blogging thing again tomorrow. I know a lot of you are going to be commenting strongly on this. Comment moderation is going to be tight on this post, so keep it constructive.
Update: comment from Leo below:
Thanks for the post, Mike. Apology accepted. Now that I know what was going on in your mind, I apologize to you.
There seems to be something about the Gillmor Gang that just engenders over the top passion. I’m embarrassed by my overreaction. Peace.