∞ Say goodbye to journalistic integrity: NDAs no longer count for much

When did Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) cease to have any meaning? And what does this mean for the future of Apple reporting and blogging going forward?

[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]With the recent rollout of a developer release of Mac OS X Lion, we’ve seen a flurry of first looks and sneak previews posted to Apple-related blogs far and wide. None of which I’ll link to here, for obvious reasons.

What’s important for the casual observer to understand is that, for the most part, these are being done in violation of the NDA that Apple requires registered Apple developers to sign.

There are certainly ways around the NDA. For example, getting screenshots or anonymous information sent from registered developers, while not being a developer directly.

Make no mistake, Apple lowered the bar dramatically when they dropped the price of being a registered Apple developer from hundreds of dollars to a mere $99. That gave many otherwise cash-strapped bloggers and minor journalists all the motivation they needed to sign up, grab Lion and start posting screenshots.

That lower price and the process of registering is still a high enough barrier to entry to keep mainstream users away from Lion. But I’m still willing to bet that once Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) rolls around, the company will trumpet about how many new “developers” have been added to the fold since last year.

Will Apple yank developer credentials as a result of this? I seriously doubt it. While they may occasionally slap the wrists of developers who talk and blog out of turn, let’s face it – it’s publicity for Apple, building public awareness of what is, by all early accounts, going to be a very significant update to Mac OS X. And with millions and millions of new Mac users joining the fold every quarter, that benefits Apple in the long run.

Most of the blogs doing this have little, if anything, to lose. They exist at the periphery of the Apple news ecosystem, with very little access to Apple beyond what the general public does – Apple press releases offered through official channels and scraps they can glean from trusted news sources.

So there’s motivation for these blogs and second-rate news sources to violate NDAs. It’s a short-term gain that adds readership and applies eyes to page views, with a remote chance of suffering any negative consequences.

But it’s also really dirty pool, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a lousy way of doing business.

We hear a lot from bloggers whining that they’re not taken seriously as journalists. My recommendation: If you want to be taken seriously as a journalist, then take your head out of your ass and start acting the part.