Citizen Journalism Follow-Up Notes

My post about the the false Steve Jobs Heart Attack rumor has gotten more traction than I expected. And while I pointed the finger at Silicon Alley Insider, it wasn’t really a personal attack. SAI is still amongst my favorite sites.

SAI just happened to be the vehicle in this very prominent example, and I can defend some of their actions. Mostly, I believe that this is a constructive conversation, and I hope SAI’s Henry Blodget realizes that.

Blodget wrote a response as to why they linked to the rumor. I don’t want to nitpick, but thought I’d write a brief followup.

So first note: I am perhaps more “defensive” in my publishing of news than most publications. The reason is that the percentage of intentionally fake stories is very high in the Mac rumor world. This means that if I take a given rumor submission, the chance of it being fake is greater than it being true.

In Defense of Publishing

In SAI’s defense, there is a point at which a story has too much momentum to ignore, regardless of its content. The exact point at which that happens, however, is up for debate.

The Steve Jobs story was climbing the ranks of Digg and already being talked about on Twitter. While I don’t think it would have made Digg’s front page, it may have only been a matter of time before the story was reported somewhere. Though, I suspect that it could have been originally reported as a debunking, or with more skepticism.

In the Future

I disagree with Blodget’s claim that they wouldn’t do anything differently in the future. So will SAI really publish another rumor from iReport of the same magnitude and say “it could be true or false. we’re working on verifying it”? If so, I can have an iReport story ready for you in a few minutes.

Clearly, if another major but unverified story is published on iReport (or similar site), people will report on it far more skeptically. This degree of skepticism is perhaps that little bit that makes the difference.

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3 Responses to Citizen Journalism Follow-Up Notes

  1. Harrison R says:

    I assume you try to do some sort of verification before you post stories on MacRumors – since that’s not feasible for a place like iReport, what would you recommend to them?

  2. Aviv says:

    @Harrsion: iReport is not the one that needs to do verification. It should have been initially understood that the story had a level of “unverified information” immediately. Not only did SAI publish it with a minute tone of possible “truthiness,” but it’s not the first time they’ve done something like this.

    Back on June 10th, SAI posted this post: — with the title “Does Apple’s Steve Jobs Have Cancer Again?”. Only it has changed since then, originally, they had this image posted: — and they had no “*” in the title.

    I am sorry to say Arnold, SAI is definitely a good (brash) read most of the time. But the foundation on which the site is built is ill intentions. They care more about traffic and money then they do about a community, readers or content.

    Sad… But true.

  3. Arnold Kim says:

    for iReport? They are a glorified message board. Their model is that of random-people (unconfirmed) news, so it is what it’s supposed to be.


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