Nick Denton slams ex-Gawker employee over Steve Jobs apology

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

Gawker Media chief Nick Denton and Brian Lam, a former blogger for Gawker-owned tech site Gizmodo, engaged in a bit of a tech tête-à-tête on Twitter Thursday. The exchange concerned an apology Lam made to Steve Jobs about the handling of Gawker's infamous acquisition of a lost iPhone 4 prototype last year.

In a long post on TheWirecutter.com, Lam's new gadget-focused website, the ex-Gawker employee and Wired contributor recounted his relatively brief interactions with Steve Jobs.

"I met Steve Jobs while I worked at Gizmodo," Lam wrote. "He was always a gentleman. Steve liked me and he liked Gizmodo. And I liked him back. Some of my friends who I used to work with at Gizmodo refer to those days as the Good Old Days. That is because those were the days before it all went to shit. That was before we got the iPhone 4 prototype."

Lam recalled that Jobs called him an hour after Gizmodo published the story about the iPhone 4:

"Hi, this is Steve. I really want my phone back."

He wasn't demanding. He was asking. And he was charming and he was funny. I was half-naked, just getting back from surfing, but I managed to keep my shit together.

"I appreciate you had your fun with our phone and I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the sales guy who lost it. But we need the phone back because we can't let it fall into the wrong hands."

I thought, maybe [it's] already in the wrong hands?

He continued, "There are two ways we can do this. I can send someone to pick up the phone—"

Me: "I don't have it"

"—But you know someone who does…or we can send someone with legal papers, and I don't want to do that."

He was giving us an easy way out.

I told him I had to talk to my dudes. Before he hung up, he asked me, "What do you think of it?"

I said, "It's beautiful."

Lam said that after due consultation with his "dudes," he told Jobs that Gizmodo would return the prototype only if the senior brass at Apple--a notoriously secretive company when it comes to product development--claimed it was theirs.

"This is some serious shit," Jobs said, according to Lam. "If I have to serve you papers, and go through the trouble of it, I'm coming for something and it's going to mean someone in your organization will go to jail." (This past August, the San Mateo, Calif., district attorney's office said that it would not charge Gawker Media or its employees in the case.)

And here's how Lam recounts leaving off the exchange: "The last thing I said to him was, 'Steve, I just wanted to say that I like my job, and it's exciting sometimes, but sometimes we have to do things that are difficult and what some might consider parasitic, with regards to reporting on health. And things like this.' "

Earlier this year, after leaving Gawker, Lam emailed Jobs to apologize:

Steve, a few months have passed since all that iphone 4 stuff went down, and I just wanted to say that I wish things happened differently. I probably should have quit right after the first story was published for several different reasons. I didn't know how to say that without throwing my team under the bus, so I didn't. Now I've learned it's better to lose a job I don't believe in any more than to do it well and keep it just for that sake.

I'm sorry for the problems I caused you.

On Twitter, Denton chastised Lam for his apology.

"A better concept for [Lam's] new website: The Apologist," Denton wrote. "Find moral dilemma; insert self as painfully and narcissistically as possible."

Lam responded: "For the record, I like Steve Jobs as much as I like you. [B]ut I think he's done more to help the world. [A]nd I respect that."

He added: "Hey, also, I love you and loved working with you. Sorry if you disagree with how I'm living my life. But I've gotta do it. I'm just trying to do a little site to help people choose gadgets. I'm sorry [it's] not impressive enough for you."

"There you go again, apologizing," Denton wrote. "You were born to do this!"

It's worth noting that Gawker published a piece on Thursday by Hamilton Nolan criticizing the outpouring of support for Jobs and grief over his death.

The title: "Steve Jobs is Not God."

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