Uber executive Emil Michaels got in hot water this week amidst news that he had threatened to hire researchers to dig up dirt on hostile journalists, or more specifically, Sara Lacy – and spread dirt about her personal life.
The episode brought more negative attention to Uber. Some took it as an opportunity to explore the reporting practices of those who cover the tech sector. The NY Times joined in, with the piece In Silicon Valley, Journalists Balance Booster and Critic. According to the story:
In a podcast, Ms. Lacy, the founder and editor in chief of the Silicon Valley news website PandoDaily, and Paul Carr, her co-host, called Uber…“evil” [and nasty, etc.] They also reserved a portion of their scathing rant for their fellow tech writers, who, they said, had gone too soft on Uber.
The [episode] opened a window into the competitive… group of publications that… cover Silicon Valley… many make a significant portion of their revenue from live events and conferences that feature the big-name tech executives they cover. Some… also rely on investments from venture capital firms that have stakes in the start-ups.
This aspect of the story, about the competitive nature of tech reporting and their infighting, had a “here we go again” feel. Indeed, I covered similar ground in my posts from a couple of years ago: Tech Media Thrashes About, and Sniping Between Tech Blogs Reveals Intense Competition).
So, what did we learn and how should we react to these things: the Uber episode, how it was covered and the state of tech reporting at large?
I think they can collectively be like a Rorschach test – depending on where you sit, reactions may differ:
- If you are a tech vendor, you thank God that you are not Uber and recall the PR person’s counsel that there really is no such thing as off-the-record – the Uber executive’s comments were made at a private dinner, but how private can it be when the media are there?
- If you are Sara Lacy (pictured above) you bask in the exposure; she made some valid points, but seemed all too eager to play victim and milk the opportunity.
- If you are in PR you scratch your head over the double standard (I mean, journalists compile dossiers on companies and people and sometimes spread dirt, right? Ugh, don’t get me started). You get confused because, despite Lacy’s tantrums, you know that the media can be very tough on tech companies and sometimes even your clients. Most of all, unless you like to blog about flacks and revenge (guilty) you stay very quiet and let this blow over until next time.