Monday, October 6, 2008

A bogus heart attack, Steve Jobs and Citizen Journalism

It was the first weekend I'd had without AFL for 6 months, so luckily something interesting happened over the weekend that I could follow in between trying to save my garden from the weeds

It occured in the developing world of 'citizen journalism', and the star players were Apple Chief Steve Jobs and CNN's 'citizen journalism' initiative, CNNi.

On Friday night I was home enjoying some red wine, watching Goodfellas for the 20th time, when I quickly logged onto Silicon Valley Insider. Henry Blodget the sites editor started with, "Citizen journalism" gets its first real test. A story of major consequence that, thus far, no one else has reported"

It then went onto report that CNN's CNNi had run a story on it's front page that Apple head, Steve Jobs, had suffered a heart attack and had been taken to hospital. This happened around 11pm EST ... so just before trading opened in Wall St. SAI merely reported the story and linked out to CNNi - it claimed it was following up Apple sources to see if the story was legitimate as the rest of the media world didn't seem to be following the story at the time.

But Twitter was ablaze with chatter regarding the alleged heart attack. Apple stock dived - but nowhere near as much as one would expect.

SAI also stated "Meanwhile, very interesting that this report appears on CNN's site. If it proves correct, CNN will look great. If it is wrong, CNN's credibility will likely be hit."

The whole situation is outlined here - http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/10/why-we-published-that-steve-jobs-heart-attack-report

So ... a few hours later it turned out the post on CNNi was bogus. SAI amended the story and CNN took the post down. It apppeared that in this case, the initiative had failed. Apple stock rallied and now the hunt is on to find out who the culprit was.

Blodget is getting absolutely hammered for posting the story as news - I don't think he has anything to answer for. Jobs is the biggest name is tech without a doubt and his health is an often discussed issue almost to the point that when Jobs gets up and launches a new product there is often more discussion about his weight (or lack of) than the products.

It will be interesting to see how CNN approach this - an error this large with a personality as big as Jobs is a real stumble ... and will this impact on other traditional media experiments into letting their readers contribute editorial?

5 comments:

Zac Martin said...

If anything, I think this shows the power of citizen journalism. Which, like many things, can be used for both good and evil.

Although I think case studies like this don't help new media's credibility issues.

Ben said...

this reminds me of engadget running a story in 07 announcing a rumour that the first version iPhone was going to be delayed from June to Oct. this day saw the Apple stock price drop until the Apple PR machine went into overdrive and the story retracted. have a quick read at: http://www.engadget.com/2007/05/16/iphone-delayed-until-october-leopard-delayed-again-until-januar/

this was a real wakeup for some of us commercial blogs to ensure sources of stories are genuine and having to hold responsibility for content appearing across our sites

Ben Shepherd said...

i think your last point is really key Zac ... these sorts of incidents do nothing for this area in terms of credibility and trust with advertisers ...

on the first point - agree - spreading bogus information has been around forever - from sport to finance to politics etc - it's just digital offers a much more efficient channel of distribution.

Aaron said...

I think traditional media will take a swipe at new media whenever it can (while also being conveniently ignorant of its own journalistic standards).

Who was that guy at The Age that dedicated a page to a false story about the war, without even doing any online research (haha, the irony)?

Aaron said...

Here it is: http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/latest/