Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hoax shows pitfalls of citizen journalism

Yesterday's false report on CNN's citizen journalism site about Steve Jobs' heart attack caused Apple stock to initially nosedive 10 percent before the hoax was discovered. CNN quickly yanked the report, but the incident shows the pitfalls of allowing any Internet user to post news without editing or filtering.

Stories on the incident include:
    • Heather Havenstein of raises the question of whether CNN has sufficiently distinguished the difference between its reporting and that of its citizen journalists.

    • James Callan of Bloomberg (and others) are reporting that the SEC is investigating the incident and that CNN is cooperating, but the network hasn't said whether it has revealed the hoaxster's IP address to the government. Callan also points out that Henry Blodget, the former Merrill Lynch & Co. Internet analyst who is now a blogger, drew attention to the iReport story by posting an item on his Silicon Alley Insider Web site.

    • Blodget later posted this item, after the hoax was revealed, saying "'Citizen journalism' apparently just failed its first significant test." Blodget also writes, "It's possible that reports like this will significantly damage CNN's credibility, and we wouldn't be surprised if this caused them to pull back from association with 'citizen journalism.'"

    • John C. Dvorak of says the incident will probably result in a "re-evaluation of the idea of so-called citizen journalists, with a lot of criticism coming their way. My advice: Get over it. We're stuck with what we have. We are not going to be able to control bad reporting, disinformation, hoaxes and lies in this Internet age. It's like a bad forest fire; it can be contained but not controlled. And the likelihood of this sort of thing's being an everyday occurrence is fairly low."

    • Betsy Schiffman of explains how the hoax had a big impact ("the subject of Jobs' health is exactly the sort of front-burner item that would tend to catch fire") and she quotes an attorney as saying the perpetrator could face criminal charges and possibly prison time.
(Photo credit: AP)


Anonymous said...

Oh please. There is enough journalistic malfeasance in this election cycle alone to be placed squarely at the feet of professional journalists that we don't have to expend energy pointing fingers at citizen journalists. CNN provided the forum for this form of journalism. Strange that they should bear no responsibility.

Anonymous said...

"citizen journalism" is not journalism at all- there are no checks and balances.