'How a censorious and moralistic blogger ruined my evening'
Damn tech press. Reporting and stuff. Jesus
I know we said media media meet-and-greet, but...
But the off-the-record matter isn’t material, because even if Michael was just some tipsy bullshitter making stuff up, he was crossing a line when he proposed setting up a unit to dig dirt on the company’s enemies. And he was crossing the line further when he said Sarah Lacy - the only enemy journalist he specifically named - would be "personally responsible" for any woman who was sexually assaulted after following her advice and deleting Uber. Classy.
He did specify journalists here, of course, but if a company is capable of that, and is the kind of company that puts its customers’ movements live on a screen at a party, or one that thinks it’s fun to track customers’ one-night stands, then it’s also capable of getting heavy with all sorts of other enemies. So there’s a public interest justification for publishing, off the record or not.
Wolff clearly does not think Uber is capable of that, but that Michael is just a stray loose cannon. Presumably therefore he was also the sole loose cannon responsible for the two transgressions above, and various other minor incidents that other people might think spoke of a company pervaded by a juvenile, troublingly frat-boy culture.
So shall we do the accounting? On the one hand, we have the Wolff approach, quietly taking Kalanick aside, advising him to get his exec under control, and if Kalanick has any sense, Michael’s facetime with the press is in future heavily curtailed and supervised. Nothing to see here people, move along. Uber’s just a company with a "lack of PR finesse" and (cough) an expensive ex-Cameron spinner wining and dining influentials on its behalf. Uber - a company that Wolff hadn’t met prior to last week, don’t forget - is "at the forefront of a vast reordering of ground transportation", and is much misunderstood.
And all of those squalid clippings? Well, I suppose in Wolff’s world that’s just shit got up by the press, and you can understand why Uber might want to hire an attack team to… No, wait.
On the other hand, you could consider the squalid clippings as evidencing a systemic culture of uber-entitled lawbreaking, and that a damn good monstering would be in the public interest, with the added outside chance that it would freak Uber out sufficiently for it to reform. But don’t hold your breath on that one.
So yes, you get to hang out with the rich movers and shakers and maintain your access, or you blow it all up and have dinner on your own. We never say nice things about Buzzfeed, but just this once, Ben Smith, you’re OK. ®
Wolff appears to hanker for simpler times when journalists knew their place and allowed highly paid thought-leading columnists to hob-nob with the high and mighty untroubled by groundlings. "The technology and Internet press, earnest, righteous and toxic, exists on a far different basis than the traditional press, but is ever-more powerful because the traditional press follows gullibly and desperately behind it…" Ah, if only…