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Oct 5, 2008

Who's to blame for spreading phony Jobs story?

Who's to blame for spreading phony Jobs story?

Posted by Greg Sandoval
"Unedited. Unfiltered. News."

That's the slogan CNN chose for its citizen-journalism site, iReport.com, a place designed to tap into the citizen journalism craze. At iReport, any member of the public is allowed to post news reports, ostensibly as part of the cable network's news operation, simply by providing an e-mail address. CNN and citizen journalism are being criticized after someone used the site on Friday to spread the false report that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had suffered a serious heart attack.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs

The bogus story sparked a minor panic on Wall Street before Apple had a chance to deny the rumor. Trading in Apple's stock skyrocketed, and the share price briefly fell about 10 percent before rebounding later in the day.

How is it possible that a single fraudulent Internet report can wipe away millions or even billions of dollars of market value from one of the world's most powerful technology companies? That's the big question if you're one of the Apple's investors. If you're an investigator for the Securities and Exchange Commission you're interested in who did it and why. According to CNN, SEC investigators are looking for the person who posted the fictional story to iReport.

Some of the other questions being asked are why mainstream news services didn't discredit the report before any damage was done? And who was minding the store for CNN? Surely, one of the country's most trusted news sources wouldn't allow just anyone to post a story under its banner without vetting it.

Also at the center of the controversy is Silicon Alley Insider, a New York-based technology and financial news blog that has earned enormous respect and popularity in a brief amount of time. SAI and CNN could see their reputations tarnished if they're found to be at fault, but I venture to say that in the wake of the controversy, everyone involved in online journalism is doing some self reflection...

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