05 October 2008

Citizen Journalism, Steve Jobs, and the Apple Share Price

The rapid improvements in technology and the greater accessibility to it for the ordinary person has meant that the term citizen journalism has come to mean a rapid dissemination of information no matter whether that information is true or not. Any information that is untrue will eventually be found out but perhaps not before the damage is already done.

Apple learnt this the hard way recently. It would be sublimely ironic if the person that posted the erroneous report was using Apple technology or was a shareholder in Apple.

Time Warner who is the owner of CNN and therefore of a site called iReport which was put together by CNN as a community journalism portal. iReport is designed to be a portal for information that is directly uploaded to the site without any real vetting. The headline for iReport is unedited, unfiltered, news. Any information uploaded that is found to contravene the "community guidelines" for the site will be removed.

I am sure that CNN have posted a big disclaimer that it is not responsible for nor guarantees the accuracy of the information that gets uploaded to the iReport site.

A posting on iReport claimed that Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, had suffered a heart attack and was being rushed to hospital. As bad as the heart attack for Jobs might have been if it was real was cause for investors to panic and perhaps have heart attacks themselves.

In the ensuing panic Jobs might actually have had a heart attack when he saw Apple's share price plummet some 9% and hitting a 17-month low and finally closing down some 3% for the day's trade. The report and the rapid fall in share price has sparked the interest of the Security and Exchange Commission. The SEC has indicated that they are going to investigate.

This is not the first time Jobs has had medical problems in fact it has been reported by Bloomberg that Jobs had died as recently as August. Jobs responded by telling the audience at his next public appearance that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated.

The question is whether or not erroneous reporting like this example is enough to kill citizen journalism. My view is that it is not. The reality is that people need to take responsibility as much for what they read as they write. Besides there are probably more instances of citizen journalists being right on the money rather than missing big time like this report of Steve Jobs imminent demise.


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