By Harry McCracken | Monday, March 23, 2009 at 9:20 am
Last week, PCMag.com’s Sascha Segan pointed out something unusual about former Vice President Al Gore’s keynote speech at next week’s CTIA Wireless phone trade show in Las Vegas: It wasn’t going to be open to the press, apparently at the request of Gore or his staff. It was a truly jarring bit of news. I’ve been attending tech trade shows for a couple of decades, and can’t remember a single other keynote that the media wasn’t invited to attend.
But it’s not just as a courtesy that we press people are normally let into such speeches–media coverage is one of the primary reasons why they exist. It’s impossible, for instance, to imagine a scenario in which Steve Jobs keynotes at Macworld Expo or Bill Gates ones at CES were anything but publicity extravaganzas designed to attract as much media attention as possible.
Also, as Segan pointed out, the auditorium where Segan pointed out would have been bulging with folks who could have blogged the event (with photos) from their phones if they chose. In the era of citizen journalism, the only way to truly keep journalists away from a speech would be to bar citizens from attending. You’d Gore–the co-founder of citizen-journalism TV channel Current, not to mention a former newspaper reporter–would understand that.
Besides, it’s not as if Gore hasn’t made plenty of remarks at tech-related events that were open to the media. I first saw him do so (via a special video) at the SIGGRAPH graphics show a couple of decades ago. And here’s fuzzy photographic proof that I’ve encountered him twice in the past five months alone (at the Web 2.0 Summit and Google’s Google Earth launch):
(Actually, come to think of it, maybe it’s photos like those that lead Gore to be publicity-shy.)
Anyhow, Gore has apparently thought better of the whole thing: the CTIA announced today that Gore will let members of the media into his talk after all. Good news. I’ll have left CTIA by the time he appears on April 3rd, but I’m happy for my fellow reporters–and, more important, for everybody out there who’d like to attend the conference but can’t, and will therefore rely on press coverage to learn what happened.