Crowd turns on female journalist at SXSW

Journalist Sarah Lacy interviewed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the massive SXSW conference going on in Austin right now. It turned nasty.

As I wasn’t there, I can’t really make any comment about whether or not the session was any good. But it’s hard to understand how anything she could have done or said would justify this ugly response from the audience:

Someone from the crowd yelled out at the top of his lungs, “Talk about something interesting!”

Again, a monstrous cheer.

At this point, Lacy lost it.

“Try doing what I do for a living,” she said. “It’s not that easy.”

The crowd was not sympathetic, and some demanded that she turn the microphone over to the audience so they could ask questions.

So she responded angrily, “Let’s go with the Digg model and let them have mob rule.”

And as the audience members began to ask questions, she said, “Someone send me a message afterward about exactly why I sucked so much.”

In response, someone yelled out, “What’s your e-mail address?”

And someone else shouted, “Check Twitter.”

Indeed, the techie audience had been using Twitter to ping each other about how bad she was, getting riled up and abusive in the meantime.

As Gia points out, interviews go down the pan all the time. She suggests (rightly, I think), that Lacy’s gender played into the whole mess:

When an interview goes badly, the interviewee is as much at fault as the interviewer (anyone remember Christopher Lloyd and Anne Bancroft on Wogan?).

So why go after Sarah Lacy?

Well, I wonder if it has to do with her gender? When you Google Sarah Lacy, the second result is a Valley Wag piece on her entitled “Smoking Sarah Lacy”: “… there’s one salient fact about Sarah Lacy that most commentators are way too politically correct to mention: she is the hottest reporter in the Valley. No, make that the hottest reporter in the tech world – ever.” The hottest reporter in the tech world. Hmmmm. Not the smartest? The best writer? So, her value is in her ‘cuteness’? Am I getting that right?

Have a look at the results for Mark Zuckerberg – do you notice how there’s nothing about his gender nor his sexual attractiveness (or lack thereof) nor is there a photo of him sticking out any of his ’sexually alluring’ body parts? Interesting that. Well, it isn’t really interesting. That’s just how things are.

This typically repellant comment on the c:net coverage of what happens says it all:

Sarah was given the same treatment that Michelle Madigan was given when she tried to sneak into DEFCON. Both women broke the cardinal rule of covering geek news as a woman: understand the geek mind and respect it. Instead of presenting the interview that apparently was well researched and insightful, Sarah opted to play the “let me pretend to be your girlfriend” trick. She killed the substance of her questions by picking the wrong approach to posing them. I don’t know if she thought that this would put Zuckerberg at ease, but it completely back fired.

This points to love/hate relationship that geeks have with the women who try to invade their territory. Treat them with respect and genuinely act as one of them, and you get treated like Veronica Belmont or Cali Lewis. Fail to do this, and you get treated like Sarah Lacy.

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