Sarah Jeong didn’t publish an article exposing personal information about a pseudonymous Chinese tech woman. She just supported the publication of the article and attacked the victim after the fact.
The renewed controversy speaks to shoddy ethics and reckless journalistic practices of Vice, the sensationalist hipster magazine cofounded by current alt-right hate group leader Gavin McInnes. Its March 25, 2018 about tech goddess Naomi Wu is coming under further scrutiny in the aftermath of the New York Times’s hiring of Sarah Jeong. Jeong has been a contributing editor to Vice Motherboard when the article and attacked Wu after the article was published.
The gist of the controversy over this particular article, written by Sarah Emerson, is that the writer and her editors did not respect Wu’s privacy as a Chinese female living in an authoritarian country and working in a heavily-sexist industry. Now that Jeong is under fire because of tweets she has made, Wu took the opportunity to give the controversy renewed attention.
On Friday, I argued that Jeong’s controversial tweets were not in fact racist. But the fact remains that she may have committed breaches of journalistic or social media etiquette in other ways.
Her involvement in the Vice story appears to be mostly limited to criticizing Wu after the fact. She is not listed on the byline of the article, but she enthusiastically jumped into the controversy on Twitter, as might be expected of someone who maintains such a Twitter feed.
Vice’s Reckless Journalism
The article described how Naomi “SexyCyberg” Wu creates cool gadgets while dressed in sexy attire. It links her work with the culture of Shenzhen, a fast growing tech and design hub, and relates the difficulties of working in tech as a woman.
The big problem came approximately 4,700 words in, when Emerson raised a conspiracy theory and the topic of Wu’s personal life, including her marital status. As Wu wrote on Twitter in February 2018, “Why the fuck can guys make things, do STEM[,] without people taking a crowbar to their bedroom door as if they are entitled to the details of EVERY aspect of their lives?”
Vice fancies itself as a worldly, progressive outlet, but in this case, the writers and editors involved in the article failed their cause.