Jason Calacanis’s Contradictory Views on Aggressive Journalism

May 27, 2016

Jason Calacanis, a well-known Silicon Valley enterpreneur and blogger, in a very frank, lengthy and informative interview on January 28, 2016 with Wall Steet Journal investigative reporter John Carreyrou who broke the story about flaws in Theranos technology and operations, commends the latter stating near the tail end of the interview (starting 1:26:32 – transcript by ear below with emphasis added)

I don’t think with you or your tenacity to stay on this story any of the journalists here in Silicon Valley who I can tell you are bought and sold [..] Lot of them won’t take on these big projects. It has to come from New York journalists. It has to come from the East Coast because the East Coast people don’t have a horse in the race.   They don’t have friendships to maintain, they don’t have spouses or cousins or brothers or friends or people they go on vacation with on private jets and go to you know islands. You know these journalists are very tied into the ecosystem here. And they are bought and sold largely. They don’t want to risk somebody not giving a keynote at their conference.  They don’t want to risk knocking over the apple cart.   I know this because, listen, I am a Brooklyn kid who lives here and I can tell you,  I feel the pressure. Like when I wrote bad stuff about Zuckerberg and Facebook and how they were screwing with people’s privacy, just in my blog, and like how I thought it was ridiculous and bad.  You know I had people try to, somebody try to literally scuttle my career and told me essentially  ‘You’ll never work in this town again. Stop beating up Zuckerberg.’   That’s the kind of pressure journalists out here are under. They are not really journalists.  They are more like content creating PR extensions in this town. The East Coast, you know, the bulldogs, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, 60 Minutes, Frontline, Propublica – like you need to have this aggressive East Coast, Northeast approach to taking on these giants.  Because it’s not going to happen here.  And I applaud you for doing this. I think it’s tremendous the work you’re doing. [..] I know you’re doing it not for the money because let’s face it you’re making a fraction of what you would get paid working on the PR. Put it this way, the PR person is literally making 5 times what you make.  And David Boeis is making 500 times as much as you make defending the other side of this. And so people who are attacking you about this I think are pointing the target at the wrong place.

So after this brave and revealing commentary, it’s astonishing for Calacalis now to be celebrating Gawker‘s plight on being found liable for $140m for invasion of privacy, with individual journalists also being targeted in lawsuits funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel – who acknowledged a 10-year long plan to target and bankrupt Gawker’s for their irreverent attitude to him and his friends in Silicon Valley, an attitide as Calacanis makes clear above, they are used to from the compliant press back in the Valley.

As Nick Denton, the founder and proprietor of Gawker, in a open letter to Peter Thiel makes the same point as he lists the many investigative reports that Gawker, a “small New York media company” put out, while acknowledging they “overstepped the line” a few times “into snark” among the millions of posts, to offset the “fawning coverage of tech luminaries”.  The kind of fawning coverage that led to Elizabeth Holmes to be valued $4.5 billion and being written as the next-Steve Jobs without putting out a single product in public.

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