Nothing disgusts me more than when rampant speculation, innuendo and rumor make their way into the headlines. It’s one thing when information like that is labeled as such, but it’s entirely another when people get a whiff of something that seemingly confirms their own suspicions or worse: picks up a slow news day.
Recently, the source of a bit of intentional misinformation was amused at the viral velocity in which tech news sites and blogs ate it up. The source claims to be the creator of the “new iPhone screw” rumor and by planting a seemingly innocuous factoid in a Reddit thread has proven that critical thinking goes out the window when it comes to the mass hysteria of Apple products.
John Brownlee, author of Cult of Mac’s post on the subject, mentions the source is an anonymous poster on the Reddit forums, but seemingly never attempts to vet the source, rather opting for the “if-than” style of prose. He even goes so far as to incorporate a quote from iFixit’s Kyle Weins but still never attempts to vet the source. WIRED’s Roberto Baldwin goes further, and in his post’s headline, declares that Apple will never get the best of the DIY community.
Fliip Truta, author of a Softpedia post which does nothing more than regurgitate previously written bytes of information on the matter, and serves to varnish the innuendo into a more seemingly factual story. Most of his article (if you can call it that) is quote after quote and leaves little from the mind of the author for the digestion of the reader. Joyce See from Macworld.co.uk doesn’t do much better, ranking in with the shortest post possible on the matter.
As of this post, only one of the four authors mentioned ever bothered to update their original story with the fact that this was a test by a design firm to see how inaccurate information can be swept up by mass hysteria. It’s proven that the journalistic integrity in the age of the blog has become something of a notion of days gone by and that tech bloggers will throw caution to the wind in an effort to grab the headline. Allow me to do a quick recap:
- Cult of Mac article – 371 original words (not including block quote or updates).
- WIRED article – 520 words, mostly duplicated in thought from the Cult of Mac post
- Softpedia article – 345 mostly regurgitated words from the Cult of Mac post
- Macworld.co.uk article – 212 words and the same screen cap as everyone else, only with an overlaid advertisement.
(This post alone totals more than 800 words. It’s a sad state of affairs when a commentary piece about a story can garner more verbosity than the story itself.)
To WIRED’s credit, Roberto Baldwin does make an effort in his article to flush out more of a commentary on the information, rather than a straight news story. In the end, however, it’s mostly the same story, only with rearranged quotes and an injected thought every other paragraph.
A lot of what goes on in the modern age of reporting technology news is the fault of the consumer. Exercising critical thinking habits is something of a lost art, albeit the most important thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom (next to opposable thumbs). It is the audience that allows these kinds of shenanigans to happen and continue throughout the industry. Why? Because consumers eat this stuff up. The revel in the speculation that yet another company is coming out with yet another smartphone, tablet, notebook or anything else that might beep, boop or whistle. A lot of it has to do with the notion of what is (and isn’t) modern ADHD-driven consumerism in the 21st century. The other small part of it is that some people want information spoon fed to them without having to exercise any independent judgement on their own.
This notion of “tweet first, ask questions later” has to go. It benefits no one, except the companies that rake in millions in profits each year and are the same companies that everyone seemingly rails against when they talk about corporate greed.
Yet, as consumers, we play right into their hands.
It does us shame and dishonor to allow such douchebaggery to mar the integrity of tech journalists everywhere. I’ve said it time and time again: Just because you write for an industry publication doesn’t make you a credible writer and just because you’re a blogger doesn’t mean you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.
Ultimately, however, it is the responsibility of each and every purveyor of news to subscribe themselves to the basic journalistic tenants, for the sake of our readers, regardless of the medium. Integrity is in the message and none of the messages mentioned above speak volumes about their authors. What ever happened to vetting your source and making sure that the news you report is actually news?
I guess integrity takes a back seat when you’re trying to shove ads down readers’ throats.