back to article 'How a censorious and moralistic blogger ruined my evening'

So you’re at an Uber-hosted dinner for New York media high-rollers, and the Uber exec - Emil Michael, senior VP for business - you’re talking to goes off on one, suggesting he could hire a million dollar team to dig up dirt on hostile journalists and their families. What do you do? This - apparently - depends on who you are. …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The irony of buzzfeed of all places getting on its high horse about doxxing and spreading dirt on people is just incredible.

    Perhaps they'll clean out their own house a bit now?

  2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "In defence of Uber..."

    Why?

    Uber clearly seems to be run by teenagers. They're constantly acting like immature, self-centered twits. If they keep going in this manner, they'll implode at some point.

    1. Frankee Llonnygog
      Angel

      Re: "In defence of Uber..."

      Yes - they need a sensible and mature CEO with sector experience in charge. Someone like John Griffin from Addison Lee ...

      1. NumptyScrub

        Re: "In defence of Uber..."

        I hear Steve Ballmer may be available, for the right price. ^^;

    2. Oh Homer
      Paris Hilton

      Re: "In defence of Uber..."

      I might be more inclined to defend "Uber" (or not) if I knew what the hell it is (other than a misspelled German word).

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Flame

    WTF is an "annoying date"?

    "Suave motherfucker" and "Oozing Polonius" are better descriptions. I would have additional ones, but they could be construed as implying disrespect to the gay community.

    1. A J Stiles

      Oozing Polonius

      Polonius was certainly oozing after Hamlet stabbed him through that curtain .....

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Oozing Polonius

        And given Hamlet's mommy issues, maybe he could be the "Swede motherfucker"?

        (Yes, I know Hamlet was Danish. It's Friday, damnit. You guys are lucky(?) that I can still string words together at this point. I need a beer.)

        1. pdlane
          Pint

          Re: And given Hamlet's mommy issues, maybe he could be the "Swede motherfucker"?

          At the mouth of Helsingoer: Sound between Denmark and Sweden, the cannons at Hamlet's Kronborg castle's fortress are still aimed at Sweden.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    cast the first stone

    > suggesting he could hire a million dollar team to dig up dirt on hostile journalists

    Given that this is what (some) journalists do for a living, any outrage seems rather empty, self-serving and hypocritical.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: cast the first stone

      I rather think there's a world of difference between those hacks who dig up gossip and trivia about people's sex lives for the news of the screws, and those who make perfectly legitimate comments about the business practices of a company.

      Or are you suggesting that because someone else once wrote something really tacky about <insert name of soap star> then a company like, say, Wonga would be entitled to dig up dirt about my private life, if I wrote something critical of them?

      The remarks made by the Uber exec seemed to suggest that it was not a case of someone saying something like "that Whitfield hack, he got bought lunch by Yamaha, we can't trust a word he says" but information of a much more personal nature that would be sought out.

      I don't think that's acceptable, whatever side - and I have just as much contempt for journalists who publish tittle tattle as I would for a company that thought it was a reasonable way to retaliate. Probably even more, in fact, as the sleazier hacks give us all a bad rep.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: cast the first stone

        > Or are you suggesting ...

        Note the could in the quoted section and the some in my comment.

        AFAIK the Uber guy wasn't saying he was doing anything. He merely remarked that he could - as could any C-level person in any 8 or 9 or more-figure company. That in itself is not news - it's bleedin' obvious (as is the point that journalism is a dirty business). The newsworthy bit would be if he'd been careless enough to be caught doing. Something that nobody, so far, has. Been caught doing it, that is.

        A taste of their own medicine As for retaliation. I do not find it tasteful, interesting or acceptable for a public figure to have their private life (and / or that of their families) paraded through the gutter press. If a journalist digs up something in the personal life of an executive (that is not illegal or pertinent to their job: the only reason they might be targeted) and publishes that. Why should that journalist not be subject to the same treatment?

        1. keith_w

          Re: cast the first stone

          The journalist in question had not been "digging up dirt" on Uber execs private lives, she had been writing stories critical of Uber. The specific exec in question thought that to stop her from writing these stories and felt that a) digging up dirt on her and other journalists was a starting point, and b) starting unattributed rumours about her was an additional way to distract her from those stories, or at least to undermine her writing.

        2. WatAWorld

          Re: cast the first stone

          What is your definition of "the gutter press"?

          Is it the press that covers people like you and the people you represent in a way you don't like?

          To me the gutter press are those who selectively dig up garbage on those they disagree with and on powerless little people.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: cast the first stone

            What is your definition of "the gutter press"?

            A weekly magazine for roofers?

      2. WatAWorld

        What this world needs is more organizations like The Guardian and The Register

        In general "journalists" are as bad at policing themselves as police are.

        In general "journalists" are as likely to criticize other journalists as Catholic bishops are.

        There are real journalists out there at great and gutsy individuals and organizations. There are even some great and gutsy major organizations like the Guardian, the Register, etc.

        But with most major "news" organizations, they go lightly on those they politically support and they turn a blind eye to major media insiders despite these media being more politically powerful than 99.9% of ordinary MPs and cabinet ministers.

        Look at the silence on Canada's Jian Ghomesi for so long. They say, "He wasn't a public figure so they couldn't talk about his private life until he brought his private life up."

        Thing was his national program made him a national media star. And this is just as true for every national journalist with his or her own byline. They're pretty much all major public figures, but they're pretty much all exempt from the coverage of their private lives that they give other people.

        What this world needs is more organizations like The Guardian and The Register and fewer cowardly organizations that engage in cronyism and favoritism.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: What this world needs is more organizations like The Guardian and The Register

          The Guardian? You mean that bunch of trust-funded, nepotistic private school alumni who have form for revealing their sources without a qualm if the alternative is any sort of personal inconvenience?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What this world needs is more organizations like The Guardian and The Register

          I'd prefer some more news-based organizations that actually rely on professional journalism, without resorting to petty insults/name-calling (either the childish or downright rude variety) of people they don't agree with, constantly relying on sexually-oriented, non-related bylines as click-bait, and generally behave as most people expect professional adults to behave. (Yes, I know I'm being "old" and unrealistic with that last one; but by "most" I'm not referring to the young professionals who, while fully adult and post-higher education, still prefer to live land behave as if they are in high school. Even if they seem to be the majority around here.)

          AC because.... well, even in lieu of what I just posted, I really do like it here and enjoy the aggregated topics.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What this world needs is more organizations like The Guardian and The Register

          Rusbridger's leaving the Grauniad, presumably to spend more time Chopin.

          Maybe things will start to look up. With the few obvious exceptions, the Guardian really have very little to boast about in recent years. Sadly, the others tend to be even worse.

  5. Psyx

    " track customers’ one-night stands"

    Holy. Crap.

    Having followed the links, I'm fscking appalled.

    Playing fast and loose with customer data for your own entertainment might be funny behind closed doors (who hasn't read out funny UIDs to other sys admins when they've been stumbled upon?) in a limited manner, but isn't Christmas party fodder. And the tracking 'rides of glory' thing is utterly beyond belief.

    I quite liked the idea of Uber breaking the monopoly of cab drivers in a few cities, but I'm distinctly repelled enough not to entertain using them, now.

    1. keith_w

      Cab drivers and cab companies themselves do not have a monopoly on transportation. Cities have a monopoly on who gets to be a cab driver. They set rules for the conditions of vehicles, including age, they set rules for how much can be charged, the set rules for who is allowed to drive, and for insurance coverage. Uber does not want to work within the rules. Uber claims it is not a cab company, just a web site that allows drivers and riders to connect, however, you could say that about any cab dispatch company as well. Uber also tracks peoples rides. It ran an ad in Europe, which suggested that if an attractive women driver picked you up, she was available for other, more personal, rides as well.

      "Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny.” She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service. “I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety,” she Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny.” She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service. “I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety,” she wrote" Ben Smith, Buzzfeed

      http://www.buzzfeed.com/bensmith/uber-executive-suggests-digging-up-dirt-on-journalists

      Personally, I hope that Uber folds and that everyone who has invested money in it loses every last cent.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Bloakey1

          Re: Only one comment to that

          No such person old chap.

    2. WatAWorld

      There are jokes sys admins tell another sys admin in private.

      Same with police officers and medical doctors.

      And then there are subtle "joking threats" you say out loud in amongst a large group of people from other industries.

      Uber was probably correct in his assumption that there are lots of national figures whose personal lives would have been trashed if they were congressmen but who escaped examination because they were journalists.

      But he made a mistake when he tried to use this to intimidate a straight-up journalist into silence.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There are jokes sys admins tell another sys admin in private.

        Same with police officers and medical doctors.

        And then there are subtle "joking threats" you say out loud in amongst a large group of people from other industries.

        .. and there are things you can do with personal information that can actually result in jailtime in some countries - not so in the good ol' US. It may prove entertaining to lob this story at the EU Art 29 working group on privacy - it could slam the door on the whole outfit for Europe.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Rides of Glory

      The page seems to be down now - was there seriously a public URL entitled "Rides of Glory" tracking one night stands? How did they work that out?

  6. SolidSquid

    "We never say nice things about Buzzfeed, but just this once, Ben Smith, you’re OK."

    Excellent tag line and I suspect sums up how a lot of people are feeling towards Buzzfeed about this

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank you

    Nice piece ...

  8. cd

    New article title: "1 Thing you Never Heard Before About Buzzfeed"

  9. stringyfloppy

    Über Niemand in der Welt

    1. I never thought the whole "off the record" think made any sense. Can you really expect to say anything "off the record?" It's like saying "Just kidding!" at the end of any outrageous statement. And who would say something like this, even as a joke, when people like Ariana Huffington is present? The question to ask Über is "Are all your executives morons?"

    2. NYC's Taxi and Limousine Commission may be a bureaucratic shambles (I actually don't really know), but people in NYC KNOW when changes are being considered regarding how the taxi system works, and it gets discussed for a long time in the newspapers, etc. Riders, drivers, and the TLC all seems to get a chance to put their two cents into the discussion. For example, when taxi drivers had to put those stupid-ass TV screens in the back seat. I'm not about to trust some app-developer who's saying I can pay for a ride in one of their cars. I read pretty much the entire Über web site, and I still don't know if the Über cars look like taxis, or are simply the personal cars that their drivers happen to own. I don't know what an Über car is like. I'd like to see some information in their faq about the cars. They didn't think to include that? Screw it, I don't want to ride in an Über car the same as I don't want to ride in a subway driven by an Über subway driver.Transit in NYC may be a crowded carnival ride dreamed up by an insane clown from the past, but it's OUR crowded carnival ride dreamed up by an insane clown from the past. Get out of town, Über no one invited you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Über Niemand in der Welt

      1. I never thought the whole "off the record" think made any sense. Can you really expect to say anything "off the record?" It's like saying "Just kidding!" at the end of any outrageous statement. And who would say something like this, even as a joke, when people like Ariana Huffington is present? The question to ask Über is "Are all your executives morons?"

      1 - yes, "off the record" exists. I can personally testify to the integrity of the various El Reg journalists I have met. They do what they say, but they also ask the hairy questions. That's IMHO fair - I expect that from a journalist. The kind that don't ask questions don't have credibility, and will most likely just rehash your press release. That's nice to get coverage, it sucks to get independent confirmation you do something interesting. I know what I prefer.

      2 - you don't go all open on people you've never met, and that includes journalists. If you do that, you should never be allowed anywhere near the media, ever. If you cannot control yourself and keep your mouth shut, get a spokesperson who can. Or get decent media training, but that still won't fix your personality problem. WTF is wrong with these people?

      3 - you get what you give. If you're a loathsome jerk with low morals, don't be surprised that your press contacts don't quite publish what you want. Moreover, do not lie, because you WILL be taken to pieces. Maybe I've met the better ones, but most journalists I've met are quite simply people with a job to do with a good degree of integrity. If you understand (or at least try to understand) what they need and how you can work with them you can get good information in the press (I define "good" as an independent view that comes out as positive as you'd hoped for, and has maybe left you with some idea how to make things even better). However, be an idiot and you'll find that but most journo's are not only naturally nosy, but also very analytical - they smell a rat a mile off and there are more ways to write a story than one.

      Personally, I hope this story will put a nice fat dent in the company, because that sort of attitude sucks. It's not uncommon (alas), but that doesn't make it right.

    2. Rik Myslewski
      Flame

      Re: Über Niemand in der Welt

      "I don't want to ride in an Über car the same as I don't want to ride in a subway driven by an Über subway driver."

      Brilliant.

      Oh, and what's with this "sharing economy" bullpuckey? Über drivers aren't "sharing" their vehicles, they're charging you good ol' cold cash for a ride.

      Fscking language-destroyers. They can damn well get off my lawn...

    3. Not That Andrew

      Re: Über Niemand in der Welt

      From what I can tell they are a large taxi company that sidesteps present regulation by using unvetted, untrained private citizens using their own cars as drivers, and instead of using taximeters, uses a smart phone app. They claim not to be a taxi company, but by all objective standards they are.

      EDIT I realise is not exactly difficult to become a taxi driver in most places, but usually there is some sort of cursory screening. Certainly a CRB check these days in the UK.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Strictly off the record, I'll explain these welts..

      "1. I never thought the whole "off the record" think made any sense. Can you really expect to say anything "off the record?"

      Sometimes. It was one of the first things explained when I did media training, ie nothing is ever off the record. Journalists make their living running stories, so if you give them a good one, they may run it. Rest is down to trust on both sides. People use 'off the record' briefings to leak or test stories, journalists may tell the story anyway. Given there seems to be quite a few trust issues with Uber, it's perhaps unsuprising the story about their ethics ran.

      1. Eric Olson

        Re: Strictly off the record, I'll explain these welts..

        To use a role-playing game analogy, "off the record" has the same impact as saying "no meta-gaming." We all know that when Fiznab the Sorcerer is told something by the DM and he turns around and tells a lie to the rest of the group, the group will pretend they didn't hear the truth but then subtly tailor their actions in a way that keeps them from falling for the lie.

        Anytime you tell any one that what you are saying is "off the record," you're just telling them that whatever they uncover better not be traced back to this conversation.. So in the case of this "off the record" event, a journalist who cared about getting access in the future would have found someone with a personal or professional dislike that attended the event to pretend to be an "unnamed source", followed by some garbage about wanting to change the company culture. I'm sure that if this man is as loose of a cannon as described by some, he could have been a suitable scapegoat for when Uber was forced to clean house.

        Obviously in this case, a few roasted bridges were a small price to pay to be the first to put a name, face, and target to a company that is clearly run like a frat house with too many legacy or trust fund kids to finance their debauchery.

        1. Havin_it
          Gimp

          @Eric Olson Re: Strictly off the record, I'll explain these welts..

          >We all know that when Fiznab the Sorcerer is told something by the DM and [...]

          No. No, we do not.

  10. RainbowTrout

    I particularly liked the Gawker headline of "Michael Wolff Accuses Journalist of Committing Journalism".

    I've never used Uber and probably never will after a conversation I had at a local bar where a regular had too much to drink and sensibly left his car and got an Uber ride. It apparently took 45 minutes and $90 to get what should have been 3 miles..........

  11. Fazal Majid

    Damning Facts

    IIRC John Lettice is the Editor of The Register, and his words carry weight.

    Emil Michael mentioned specific budget and manpower, in the context of a sleazy PR event, and his previous job was at Klout, the epitome of social-media douchebaggery. This was not an off-the-cuff remark, but a trial balloon for something that has already undergone a feasibility study. His incredibly vague job title (VP of Business? Really?) suggests skulduggery is his real job description and all the flak Uber has been receiving is if anything understated.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Damning Facts

      FWIW John is Editorial Director and cofounder of The Reg.

      C.

      1. Bloakey1

        Re: Damning Facts

        "FWIW John is Editorial Director and cofounder of The Reg.

        C."

        "C."! Are you saying he is also the head of MI6? Well I will not be telling him anything at all, bejasus, so I won't.

  12. 100113.1537

    When did Uber become the establishment?

    What is interesting (to me at any rate) is that what I have seen is that Uber is the upstart being "attacked' by the entrenched powers that be (various city transport agencies - egged on by their existing taxi unions no doubt). As such, are they the target of paid-for dirt-digging themselves?

    While this (possibly drunk) exec should be disciplined/dumped and the preciousness of this guy Wolff is just priceless, I wonder how altruistic the journos digging into Uber are themselves....

    1. Eric Olson

      Re: When did Uber become the establishment?

      If you think only the "establishment" (whatever that actually is) is a legitimate target, then you clearly need to ground yourself in world history of all kinds. We have numerous examples just from the 20th and 21st century of corporate and charismatic "upstarts" who used shady, illegal, immoral, or violent methods to rise to the top. The outsider or insider status of any person or entity should never have any bearing into investigation to the means of their ascent, as the climb may have bodies buried that need to be uncovered.

      Simply put, this story wouldn't have legs if Uber hadn't begun to display all the culture and decorum of a frat house during pledge week. Keep in mind that this executive's threat (real or not) was in response to unflattering press documenting rather dubious (and possibly illegal) official activities by the company. This is not someone commissioning a take-down piece because Uber was proving to be a thorn in some company's side; this was because Uber itself was painting a huge target on its HQ while still printing the "Kick Me" signs they were going to slap on each others' backs for fun.

  13. WatAWorld

    Wolff could get a job with Ars Technica covering Apple

    Wolff could get a job with Ars Technica covering Apple.

    Ars is another rag that knuckles under to those who refuse journalistic coverage and demand only positive advertising from the press.

  14. ysth

    Rides of Glory now 404s. Imagine that. Still in cache though.

    1. j.p

      also cached by the wayback machine

      also found it on the archive.org from Nov18

      1. Havin_it
        Joke

        Re: also cached by the wayback machine

        The Google cache is 404ing now, and archive.org is down entirely! (OK, they say a storm took out power to their datacentre, but that's a convenient cover-story for "massive ongoing DDoS" if ever I heard one)

        Dude, how powerful are these guys?

  15. h4rm0ny

    Completely reversed my attitude.

    I had been generally positive toward Uber just because it seemed the right time for such technology and a good shift in principle.

    Based on those links I now see it's a case of right time, right place, wrong company to luck out and be there.

    Deeply unpleasant culture.

  16. fearnothing

    I'm just captivated by the imagery entailed by the phrase "committing an act of journalism".

    Got a pen and notepad there I see? That's going equipped for journalism that is. What, you have a camerawoman and a sound guy too? Conspiracy to commit journalism right there! You recorded him on a DICTAPHONE?! Assault with a journalistic weapon!

    I find you guilty on all charges. Sentence: everything you say gets reviewed for unflattering content concerning the plaintiff before being released to your conversational partners. This order will be eligible for review when you retire. No special dispensation when in bed with your wife. Sentence to be carried out immediately.

  17. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    I am NOT the world's greatest douchbag

    No, you're the Universe's greatest douchbag.

  18. Kepler
    Mushroom

    Cognitive Dissonance

    I just can't get my head around the notion that someone from Buzzfeed — much less its editor-in-chief — did something sensible and showing integrity.

    Might he at least have plagiarized it? I know he says he was there, and may even have witnesses, but has anyone looked for a source elsewhere on the 'Net?

  19. mediabeing

    Please wake and grow up.

    What the hell is an 'uber-hosted dinner'?

    Please wake up and get real.

    Starting an article off with a piece of crap is a very bad idea.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Please wake and grow up.

      A dinner, hosted by popular cheap taxi company Uber.

      Thank you for your input. Please feel free to use the crayons in your nearest toilet stall next time you feel the urge to sound off without comprehending.

  20. Oh Homer
    Facepalm

    Finally an explanation

    Maybe the inclusion of a brief description in future articles, such as "cheap taxi company", might be of assistance to those of us who don't live in the concrete jungle.

  21. cortland

    Cannot hope

    To bribe or twist. Etc.

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