Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Financial Consequences are Newsworthy!

Now that the blogosphere has its Blooker Prize (for new books whose material originated in a blog) one wonders if a blog version of the Pulitzer will be coming along shortly. If so, then I am already there with a nomination: Tom Krazit, for appreciating the significance of using the word "consequences" in the lead paragraph for a post to News Blog at CNET Indeed, the consequences of Internet speed appear to be the order of the day over a News Blog.

First we had Krazit reporting on the consequences of an unfounded rumor about Apple diffusing through the blogosphere. Here is the full account of what happened:

Engadget posted a story Wednesday morning at 11:49am ET claiming that Apple was about to announce another delay of Leopard, the next version of Mac OS X, as well as a delay for the iPhone, perhaps the most hyped gadget of all time.

"This one doesn't bode well for Mac fans and the iPhone-hopeful: we have it on authority that as of today, the iPhone launch is being pushed back from June to... October (!), and Leopard is again seeing a delay, this time being pushed all the way back to January," Engadget said. Panic ensued. Apple's stock immediately plunged 2.2 percent as investors contemplated another product delay at Apple, following the first Leopard delay as well as the Apple TV delay in February.

But around 20 minutes after the original post, Engadget started to update its story. First, the site said it had heard back from Apple PR that there was no delay. Then the full story started to emerge.

Apparently an internal memo was sent to several Apple employees--and forwarded to Engadget--around 9am CT today saying that Apple issued a press release with the news that the iPhone was now scheduled for October, and Leopard was delayed until January. About an hour and a half after that e-mail went out, a second e-mail was sent--this time officially from Apple--saying the first e-mail was a fake, and that the delivery schedule for the iPhone and Leopard had not changed. Engadget then updated its headline as "False alarm: iPhone delayed until October, Leopard delayed again until January.

Krazit's article also included the graphs of Apple stock activity over this period of time, and they make for a pretty vivid illustration. His following paragraph then addressed repercussions with the sort of understatement I am more used to encountering in the British press:

Commenters on Engadget and Apple investor boards were not amused. Many of those comments are not printable in this space, but it's safe to say that there's some very unhappy Apple shareholders out there today. Apple's stock recovered as the full story emerged, but was still down slightly in afternoon trading.

However, as it was introduced, this is really a story about consequences, particularly the consequences of a world that now moves at Internet speed. Ellen Goodman wrote about this sort of thing in news reporting last month in her piece entitled, "The Benefits of Slow Journalism;" but I would guess that she does not share very many readers with CNET.

Meanwhile, shortly after Krazit's article appeared, News Blog ran a piece by Harry Fuller that followed up on the fake Craigslist ad that led to a house in Tacoma being rather thoroughly consumed by people to took the ad text "take everything" at face value. The news is that a suspect investigated for placing the ad has now been charged:

Police have accused Nichole M. Blackwell, 28, of placing the ad in Craigslist. The specific charges are second-degree burglary, first-degree malicious mischief and first-degree criminal impersonation. Blackwell is due in court May 25.

At the time of the crime, the woman who owned the house said her sister was not smart enough to think up this affair. The sister of the owner had stopped living in the house just before the trashing invitation. Blackwell is the homeowner's niece. All in the family.

As I wrote last month, this is again a story about the consequences of Internet speed.

So we have been treated to two stories on News Blog delivered in relatively rapid succession (at least in the "good old days" of print journalism). Both are stories about almost instantaneous reactions to bogus information leading to unpleasant consequences. Where addiction is concerned, they say that admitting the problem is the first step to getting over it. The Internet being what it is, however, I suspect that it is going to take a lot more than admission to deal with prevailing behavior in cyberspace!

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