Good Morning Silicon Valley's John Murrell makes a simple, but vital, point in connecting the dots in the latest Steve Jobs health scare speculation. He describes how a CNN iReport got it wrong, and how the report sent the stock diving, before spawning another ill-informed web debate about "citizen journalism."
John's post is worth a read. Here's a key passage:
"We need, however, to get one thing clear: No matter how their sponsors spin it, iReport and its ilk are not citizen journalism. They are not journalism of any sort. They are unfiltered bulletin boards of rumor, gossip, speculation and unverified accounts, and they have a base-level credibility rating of zero. The practice of journalism has well established principles involving accuracy, thoroughness, fairness and accountability, and well established practices involving vetting stories through layers of trained skeptics. When journalists fail to meet these standards, the price is paid in credibility. A site like iReport, with its open invitation to "tell the stories we're not used to seeing," is an outlet for citizen participation, not a venue for citizen journalism, despite the CNN logo. All it takes to be a "reporter" is an anonymous log-in. We may never know if "johntw" was simply a misinformed naif with a hair-trigger for rumor, a greedy trader making a crude attempt to move the market, or a bored griefer getting his jollies by watching everyone scuttle about like startled cockroaches. Unless there's something the SEC decides to look into, he pays no price because, unlike a journalist, he has no concerns about credibility."
It is a booming, buzzing confusion out there. The web is the greatest facilitator of free and unfettered speech in history. After a more than a decade of the free-for-all, it is time to provide some clarity, within the industry and for viewers and readers. In this case, CNN's journalism, increasingly powerful as print competition cuts back its coverage, is put in an awkward place, as readers confuse the CNN brand, unclear what is professional journalism, what's edited CNN-approved journalism and what's at best poorly informed drivel. Reader contributions have a place in this brave new world, as long as they prominently labeled for what they are -- and aren't.