SXSW Crowd Turns On Reporter

By: WebProNews Staff - March 10, 2008

BusinessWeek’s Sarah Lacy says she did her best interviewing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during yesterday’s SXSW keynote. The (hostile) crowd there begs to differ.

Add to the drama a quote destined for the annals of the Professional Journalism Hall of Fame, if there is such a thing, a message to the crowd from Ms. Lacy:

(Photo Credit: South by Southwest)

"seriously screw all you guys."

Life imitating art?

On the bright side, she’s getting plenty of publicity for her book.

Let’s catch you up, in case you missed the all the Twittered fury.

It may have only seemed like a cushy yet high-profile gig with the notoriously tongue-tied youngest self-made billionaire in the world – a title Zuckerberg will likely hold until Miley Cyrus hits 18. Lacy at least appeared to be prepared for the James-Lipton-esque chat.

Minutes before the interview was to begin, she was very clear about what she wouldn’t ask him. Blogging for Silicon Alley Insider, she informed readers there would be no needless rehash of questions about the botched Yahoo deal, his youth, or his general interview awkwardness.

However, according to the crowd, and seemingly to Zuckerberg too, there weren’t all that many questions.

It’s not like she wasn’t warned. Before she went on stage she made a telling observation: "Almost every reporter and blogger I’ve talked to today is hungover and angry. All of them have made me keenly aware that they want some news, and that it’s my job to deliver."

Not one to be pushed around, as her Twittered (okay, Tweeted) sendoff a couple of hours later revealed, Lacy’s apparent defiance of that warning turned the crowd against her. Eventually, she would inform the audience that her job wasn’t easy, and turned over the mic to see if they could do it.

And, well, they did. They asked the questions they wanted her to ask Zuckerberg, and all but threw rotten tomatoes at Lacy.

BusinessWeek understandably neglected to mention that part, but in a world of infinite sources, the entire "train wreck" was widely chronicled.

CNet’s Daniel Terdiman did a pretty decent job of capturing the entire holy sh*t! event:

"As a fellow journalist, this was all deeply uncomfortable. It is sort of anathema to write a story that is critical of another journalist. But there’s no question that from the beginning of the interview, Lacy was injecting herself into the story in a way that was far out of balance with the dynamic that should have been in evidence during a discussion between her and the CEO of one of the most talked-about companies in the world."

Valleywag has a nice clip of Lacy "injecting herself into the story," if you’d like an example. A solid minute goes by without Zuckerberg saying anything, with him just sipping his water and nodding.   

Or you can take Scoble’s word for it, whose thumbs must have been awfully sore from the furious Twitter play-by-play. "I’d estimate 70% to 100% were frustrated, based on my interviews and discussions at other panels," Scoble, um, tweeted.

Despite the hostility, Lacy thinks the interview went rather well, which is interesting considering Lewis Wallace says it descended into chaos. "I feel fine about it as a journalist,"  says Lacy in a video interview afterward, even if  Zuckerberg thought the whole thing was "pretty f**ked up."

She says she is used to it, though. "I get this constantly. I’m still employed. Some people enjoy what I do."

Just not the (hostile) crowd at SXSW, whom Lacy says probably ruined the chances for the conference to score another high-profile guest.

Did we mention she had a book coming out?

WebProNews Staff

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  • Guest

     Her cluelessness continues in the video where she claims that SXSW is a developer conference and that Mark doesn’t talk about APIs. SXSW is not a developer conference and most attendees don’t care about APIs. 

    Double FAIL on her part.

  • Ken

    Sarah Lacey’s rationalization that she is "still employed" provides us with an understanding that she is unable to recognize the facts as they exist.  I am sure that her employer is embarrassed and is certainly planning on a thorough training program for her.  If Sarah just grows up and matures that would certainly help her in her career.

  • sofakingdabest

    Conflict is always a good sell. Soooo "Revenge of The Nerds 10"?

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