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Talking of journalist ethics

According to Jason Calacanis, Gizmodo sold out to Siemens pretty heavily. Engadget was offered the chance of an all-expenses paid trip to CeBit by Siemans marketing people in return for specific coverage of Siemans announcements at the show. Jason turned it down – but it appears from the suspiciously extensive coverage that Gizmodo is giving Siemans announcements that it didn’t.
This is pretty lousy on two levels. Of course, Gizmodo should not have accepted that trip. Although I’ve been on trips paid for by companies in the past, never has any company attempted to tie that to particular coverage. Although it must be tempting for a cash-strapped small publisher to take the trip, as it will mean getting a lot of coverage that you wouldn’t otherwise get, it’s not worth it in terms of ethics.
However, from a marketing perspective, what Siemens did stinks. As I mentioned, I’ve been on plenty of trips paid for by companies, to see new product in slightly more interesting places, but never in ten years did any company try to barter coverage for such a trip. Whoever made that offer should be taken to one side and told that (a) it’s unethical, and (b) it’ll rebound on both publication and company – as this case will undoubtedly prove.
Ironically, CeBit isn’t much of a temptation: it’s probably the world’s least enjoyable trade show, thanks to a combination of vast size, ridiculous accommodation crisis, and general travel nightmares. You couldn’t pay me to go!

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