Guest post: Use some discretion next time, Gizmodo

Students in J457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the latest of those posts. David Riedell is a junior journalism major from Raleigh, N.C. He has worked on The Daily Tar Heel’s University desk for two years.

Everything with an Apple logo on it is white hot. When the first iPhone was released, people waited in line for hours to get their hands on the cool new gadget. The same thing happened a few weeks ago when the iPad came out. Nowadays, if you don’t have at least one iPod, you’re weird.

So of course it would be big news when Gizmodo paid someone $5,000 for “Apple’s Next iPhone” after it was left on a bar stool by an Apple employee who graduated from North Carolina State University in 2006. Apple’s security, as viewed by the tech-news world, is on par with Big Brother’s thought police: intimidating, sneaky and very tight-lipped.

Of course, Gizmodo’s editors would want exclusivity with the device. Of course they would want to pick it apart and let the public know what’s new. But did they really have to release the name of the poor, unfortunate Apple employee who left it at the bar?

The story, according to Gizmodo, is that a customer at the Gourmet Haus Staudt, a German beer garden in Redwood City, Calif., found an iPhone on a bar stool. After no one else at the bar claimed it, he opened up the phone’s Facebook application trying to find out who the owner was, so that he could return it later.

However, the next morning the phone was dead, presumably erased by a remote wipe. After examining it more closely, he realized that there was a fake case around the phone’s new, flatter design, to make it look like a regular iPhone. After failing to reach the phone’s owner at Apple, he ended up selling it to Gizmodo.

Once Gizmodo’s editors got their hands on it, they published an article with plenty of pictures detailing how it is different than the current iPhone. Then they published another article about how it came into their possession, complete with pictures, Facebook screencaps and Twitter updates of the Apple engineer who left it behind.

It seems that the public has accepted that Gizmodo’s new iPhone is the real deal, but there has been debate as to whether this was a humongous mistake by a hapless employee or just a publicity stunt from Apple. We don’t know if Apple meant for us to find it or if it was left by accident, but one thing’s for sure: If it was an accident, that Apple employee is in for a world of trouble.

Gizmodo, there was no reason to shove this guy’s name and picture into the spotlight at every opportunity. Assuming he left it by mistake, he’ll have an extremely tough time finding another job after he is (most likely) fired from Apple for unveiling this product early. He left his phone at a bar, an honest mistake that anyone could make, and you made it possible for Apple to publicly crucify him.