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Feb 25

Don’t Take Truth in News For Granted

 

Don’t take truth in news for granted, especially in this age of instant “journalism,” where any widely followed blogger can become a de facto trustworthy source for his or her readers. It’s on us, as consumers of news, to do our own research. We must self-curate all of the sources and determine for ourselves who is right, and who is wrong; which statistics are accurate, and which are misleading; which sources are biased, and which aren’t.

Otherwise, we will be lead astray by the age-old warning: “it is often better to be confidently wrong than timidly right.”

I believe that three recent examples bring proof to this opinion:

1. Tesla Motors Bricking. Blogger Michael Degusta has thousands of followers, and his vociferous complaint about a catastrophic battery drain issue in Tesla’s popular Roadster quickly took hold in mainstream news outlets. Tesla’s stock took a hit, because Tesla was instantaneously judged guilty in the court of public opinion. The problem? As Michael Nestler posted on Google+, the blogger may have had ulterior motives. And, it turns out that Tesla did nothing wrong, and in fact provides its owners with fair warning in the Owner’s Manual.

2. The Inaugural Robert Scoble Angel Fund. According to Newsweek/Daily Beast writer Dan Lyons, the Scobleizer is now an angel investor and/or venture capitalist. These are two public figures who are very widely followed and respected in the tech community. Many people immediately took Lyons’ account as truth. Here’s the problem: according to Scoble, there’s no fund. And after Lyons’ rather aggressive blog post, Scoble was forced on the defensive, since he works pretty hard to maintain his objectivity. Worse still, Lyons never contacted Scoble for comment. That fact alone, regardless of the story’s truth, is horrid “journalism” and absolutely unfair to Scoble.

 

3. Path Contact-Gate and MG Siegler‘s Boisterous Defense. Dave Morin’s Path took a publicity hit when users discovered that the app silently uploaded iPhone contact information. Morin apologized, which is great, and it is true that Path was not alone in this shady activity. But the fact remains: Path knowingly betrayed trust, which is a bad sign for management decision making. The tech journalism community has absolutely flayed companies in the past who have made mistakes like this (Hello, Facebook and Google?). Lucky for Path, noted tech journalist MG Siegler came to its defense. Siegler’s legions of fans took his cue and the Path fiasco passed quickly, by tech privacy standards. The problem? Siegler is a partner in CrunchFund, which is an investor in Path. This is the ultimate conflict of interests. Fair warning to Mr. Siegler: The SEC frowns upon this sort of thing, big time.

The moral of this story: please, please, please, read news broadly. Do your own research and make your own decisions. Nowadays, news consumption occurs instantly, and savvy networkers can easily become widely read journalists. Just because someone is loud and popular does not mean that their news is accurate.
Note: All opinions contained herein are my own, and not necessarily representative of my employer(s).

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