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Integrity and bullies with blogs

I wanted to make this brief, because I have more important things to do with my time than respond to bullies who like to play-pretend that they know things they don’t. But, just as I felt compelled to respond to Michael Arrington when he attacked the work I (and my team) did at Engadget, I am now responding to Marco Arment, John Gruber, and anyone else who sets up a minimal Wordpress blog and thinks that the ability to publish text onto the internet gives them insight into what journalism is or what I do for a living.

To be as succinct as possible, recently both Gruber and Marco have accused (yes Marco, you made an accusation about us, no matter how dumb you play it in your Tweets) The Verge of covering products which resemble or outright boost the industrial design of an Apple product then purposefully withholding mention of this fact for some kind of gain. To be crystal clear, they are suggesting that we are covering products which look like an Apple product, but avoid mentioning that they look like an Apple product on purpose. They’re suggesting we have ulterior and possibly nefarious motives.

Marco outright claims that we are doing it to win favor with the company we’re covering. Gruber has a slightly different conspiracy theory. His conspiracy is that we’re scared of our readers so we go out of our way to say nice things about non-Apple companies. This argument has been made before, and it’s just as weak now as it was then.

Without going down a rabbit hole of he-said she-said, Marco and Gruber are just basically wrong. We of course mention this kind of thing all the time in our writing. Like here, and here, for instance — in reviews especially, where that kind of critique is actually useful. Here’s our senior editor Paul Miller talking about it in 2009. You guys getting this over there? Welcome to three years ago. Still not getting it? Here’s us making fun of Nokia in 2007 for an Apple-style design. This is old hat. We mention it plenty, we talk about it on the Vergecast plenty. Nilay and I have been ripping Samsung to shreds over it for years. Gruber and Marco are plainly and simply wrong.

Do we write posts about products that look like Apple products and sometimes not mention it? Yes. Is it by some kind of design or a part of a conspiracy? No. The truth is, after a while (years and years now), you just begin to focus on other things, and save that stuff for the review. Obviously people rip off Apple. It is not news. It’s been going on forever. It didn’t just coincide with the Apple vs. Samsung trial, as Gruber and Marco seem to want to believe. We don’t need to mention it in every article, nor will we. Nor is there a rule that we must. This industry is full of theft, both large and small. I could tell you that Apple lifted its laptop keyboard designs from Sony, and its iOS notifications from Android and… aw, but you don’t want to go down that path. Do you? And you certainly don’t need me to mention it every time I cover their products, right?

But that’s not the point. The point is the accusation is outrageous that we alter or soften stories at The Verge to win favor with a company, or at that company’s request, or because a company advertises on our site, or because we’re scared of commenters, or some other invented mystery these sleuths have detected. Sorry guys, that’s not the way we work. It’s not how we have ever worked, or will ever work. It’s in our ethics statement, and it’s one of the first things we tell new employees. We are not in the business of helping out companies — we’re in the business of writing and reporting news for our readers. And that’s it, plain and simple. The idea that we would attempt to get into the good graces of a company by giving them favorable coverage is simply laughable. If you heard the crazy, angry calls I get from PR people over the coverage we do, you would know this. We have literally been shut out of access to certain companies over our harsh coverage — to suggest we kowtow to them is not only stupid, it’s simply wrong.

My point is this: when someone accuses this team of lacking in integrity, or being on the take for a company, or somehow perverting their work for the sake of some other party (readers or otherwise), I take it pretty seriously. I think it’s bullshit, and I won’t stand for it.

If you don’t like what we do, or that we don’t cover your favorite company the way you want us to, I’m sorry. When you find some proof of your grand conspiracy, let me know. In the meantime, we’ll continue to keep doing our work, which I am very proud of — and you guys can keep on acting like bullies at best, or trolls at worst, taking potshots from a remove. It does seem to be what you’re best at these days.

And that’s too bad, because I think you both have a lot more to contribute.

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