Wick Communications

Observing the difference between us and them

In Media, Uncategorized on January 9, 2009 at 8:46 am

On Dec. 30, an outfit called Gizmodo – an affiliate of the Gawker media group – posted the following steve-jobsheadline online: “Steve Jobs’ health declining rapidly, reason for MacWorld Cancellation.” Apple stock dropped, in part, on what some took as confirmation of rumors that have persisted for a long time.

As proof, Gizmodo writer Jesus Diaz cited a single anonymous source. “This source,” Diaz wrote, “has repeatedly been 100 percent correct before.” The short post went on to say Apple would be releasing the bleak news in the spring and that Jobs was not physically able to present at MacWorld, a gathering of Apple’s core fans, held this week in San Francisco.

The only problem is that none of it is true.

On Monday, Jobs – who, in point of fact, battled pancreatic cancer in 2004 — issued a statement, saying that he had a hormonal imbalance and that doctors were treating the condition. He said he had no plans to step down. Is that the whole truth? I don’t know. Perhaps he is more ill than he’s letting on. But I ask you, who is a better source when it comes to the health of Steve Jobs: An anonymous source or Steve Jobs?

I traded e-mails with Gizmodo’s Diaz this week, after Jobs’ announcement, and he said he was sticking by his story…

(By the way, a similar lie was told by an anonymous contributor to a CNN Web site in October. The poster wrote incorrectly that Jobs had had a heart attack. The company’s market value dipped $4.8 billion in the first hour after the report.)

Contrast Diaz’s reporting, if you will, with a report in the New York Times on Sunday. The Times ran an exhaustive peek into the life of Bruce Ivins, the Maryland man who killed himself rather than face chargesUSA-ANTHRAX/ that he was responsible for anthrax attacks earlier this decade. Times reporter Scott Shane wrote:

“With the F.B.I. preparing to close the case, The New York Times has taken the deepest look so far at the investigation, speaking to dozens of Dr. Ivins’s colleagues and friends, reading hundreds of his e-mail messages, interviewing former bureau investigators and anthrax experts, reviewing court records, and obtaining, for the first time, police reports on his suicide in July, including a lengthy recorded interview with his wife. That examination found that unless new evidence were to surface, the enormous public investment in the case would appear to have yielded nothing more persuasive than a strong hunch, based on a pattern of damning circumstances, that Dr. Ivins was the perpetrator…”

The newspapers for which we work have an ethic and tradition that is vastly different from that which exists at most online-only news organizations, many of which would gladly trade function for form.  I don’t mean to disparage all online news sites. Some are better than others and some are downright outstanding. What’s more, diastrous mistakes in the newspaper business are legion. Reporters have lied. Publishers have sacrificed the truth to make money. But that is not the norm nor is it reflective of a glorious past.

Remember Ivins and Jobs the next time someone tries to convince you the old media isn’t worth saving.

— Clay

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