‘What Did I Do Last Night?’: The Dark Side Of Tech Journalism Events

‘What Did I Do Last Night?’: The Dark Side Of Tech Journalism Events

I don’t know where I am. Looking around at the crowd in this room isn’t helping. Beautiful people are strewn around like confetti at a graduation. Stoli vodka is flowing out of bottles and into cocktails and the young, hip single-set are all here to out-Instagram each other until they’re too drunk to slide to unlock. Supposedly, I’m here for a tech event, but I wouldn’t have known otherwise if you hadn’t told me. So what did I do last night?

I’m in a dark basement-style club in an inner-Sydney suburb. The volume is inconceivably high, and some of the attendees might be too. The women look like models and manic pixie dream girls, while the men are dressed in this month’s GQ recommendations or last year’s in a bid to be ironic. It’s a scene ripped from the set of HBO’s GIRLS.

A DJ fills the room with the sound of drum and bass. There’s a ukulele in the corner plugged into the sound system. Clearly we’re going to get an adorable rendition of something from it later on, after the heterogeneous DJ has finished his or her set. It’s too hipster to tell at this point which sex is manning the decks.

I don’t know anyone here, despite the fact that its meant to be an event to launch ORGNL.TV. I think it’s a new IPTV channel sponsored by an alcohol brand the way Red Bull is to extreme sports, but the invite leaves me scratching my head.

I dig through my email for an explanation and find this:

“Stolichnaya Premium Vodka is celebrating all that is original in Australian art, music, fashion, technology, taste and exceptional talent, through ORGNL.TV, its new online editorial channel,” the PR note reads.

“Here you will find remarkable people and extraordinary stories seen through ORGNL.TV’s ever-original lens.
Featuring one-of-a-kind places, people and experiences, ORGNL.TV will provide fresh content curated and written by editor Melanie Mahony and her Australian team of prolific artists, style influencers and food fanatics,” it adds, but it’s all spin from inside this fashionably irrelevant popularity contest.

The ukulele man is playing now, decked out in glittery face paint like he’s straight out of a Gotye video. He’s actually quite good, but nobody’s listening. He’s talking about the official hashtags and Facebook group for the night.

I’m on my second drink now. Puréed raspberry, fresh lime juice, Stoli vodka and a raspberry spritz, all served in a cute glass bottle and topped with a plain paper straw. I take a sip and wonder why my Thursday night is like this. How did I end up at what I was told was an event but turned out to have no news at it whatsoever? Because, readers, looks can be deceiving.

As consumer technology journalists, we’re expected to cover the launch of fancy new gadgets and tech. Quite often, it means going along to launch events in lavish locales with little to no relevance to the news we’re there to cover, but going where the news is forms part of the increasingly nebulous job description.

These events for the consumer tech press are carefully orchestrated so as to ensure nothing is out of place and the company’s message is communicated with pitch-perfect precision. Most of the time, they hit the mark, and we bring you the news about products you want to know about.

Not tonight.

I have now been here for an hour and all I know about this product is its name, and I’m still checking my notes about how to spell it.

There’s nothing wrong with a tech company, brand or product dressing itself up to look posh, so long as the message isn’t lost in a haze of glitter, alcohol and self-indulgence; so long as the brand at the centre if the event remembers that the people paid to write about tech will remember your name if you fuck up.

As I type this article on my iPhone in this inner-city warehouse rave posing as a tech event, a burlesque dancer appears and minutes later, she’s parading around the front of the room to an upbeat pop number wearing nothing but two strips of tape covering her nipples and a distinct sense of self-assurance.

That’s my cue.

I disappeared into the night at that point, wondering how I’d feel about myself in the morning.