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Traditional Media's Latest Credibility Hits

After its ridiculous cover headline claiming that’s founder has “made $60 million” — based on valuations, not cashed in for real money, by unnamed people “in the know” — Business Week is still refusing to acknowledge its goof, as Scott Rosenberg’s notes in a trenchant post:

Now the magazine can either publish a correction, which I doubt it will ever do, or live with the diminished credibility it deserves.

Ed Cone adds:

BusinessWeek’s best bet is to say, ‘We goofed. We wrote an interesting article about an interesting subject, but we made a pretty bad mistake in the way we headlined the story.’ Let’s see if they really understand anything about “Web 2.0.

Reuters, meanwhile, quickly admitted sending out a doctored photo and suspended the photographer. This is bad for the news service, unquestionably, but stonewalling would have been much worse. (Kudos to Little Green Footballs for apparently being first to spot and flag the doctored picture.)

10 Comments on “Traditional Media's Latest Credibility Hits”

  1. #1 Jon Garfunkel
    on Aug 9th, 2006 at 7:39 am

    And this is why blogging has become so derivative and predictable. A more useful response from the CitJ movement would have been: “While phantom asset evaluations are the mother’s milk for investment flankers, the story that should be told is the one about the emerging news rating services; Digg is just the simplest and hence it has the most users. ”

    Repeating the BW story just props up its bubble even more.

  2. #2 Seth Finkelstein
    on Aug 9th, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    “live with the diminished credibility it deserves”???

    Bwa-ha-ha! Dan, you lived through the Great Bubble. This is a speck compared to what went on back then.

    Now, I agree with you that it was a ridiculous story. But if the days of hype-of-hype didn’t kill financial “journalism”‘s credbility once and for all, yet another vapor valuation puff-piece isn’t going to make a difference.

  3. #3 Dan Gillmor
    on Aug 9th, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    Jon, I specifically said in my original post on this that Digg is doing useful work.

    Seth, this is definitely not as bad as what we heard during the bubble, but it’s astonishing that a publication as good as BW would rachet up the hype again in this way. Learning from mistakes should be a tenet of journalism, too, but in some cases we seem to repeat them.

    My main point, though, is that BW could have done the right thing and promptly admitted its error. Instead, it’s acting like a recalcitrant politician who figures it’s easier brazen through miscues than admit them.

  4. #4 Seth Finkelstein
    on Aug 9th, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    You’re completely right, that “BW could have done the right thing ..”. But what happens if they don’t?

    I don’t mean to be too tedious, but this is one of the questions I keep asking: What if the journalist just doesn’t *care* about corrections, facts, accuracy, ethics, honesty, and so on?

    If it didn’t matter overall the last time (Big Bubble), why would it matter this time (Bubble 2.0)?

    Dan, often you say journalists *should* do honest things. I agree with you with all my heart. What I keep asking you to confront, repeatedly, is what happens when they *don’t* do honest things. And it’s frightening how much “citizen journalism” might end up making the situation *worse*.

  5. #5 Jon Garfunkel
    on Aug 9th, 2006 at 2:42 pm

    Hmm, let me try to reconcile these two seemingly different streams (familiar crowd always here. some readers gnaw more than you).

    I think underlying it all is people wondering why Digg ludicrously valued for such simple technology (naturally, because market valuation is in userbase, not technology).

    And I’m wondering why when I asked Josh Schachter some 10 months ago about why (another simple technology with 9 competitors) didn’t have valuation voting a la digg, he just didn’t get it.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a service which allowed people to the quality of articles in publications, and then be able to draw reports? That’s what I called for in the New Gatekeepers series long ago. Digg has no such aim. But there is one service I know of which does, and its released, could well blow Digg out of the water. I thought you might have made mention of it.

  6. #6 Dan Gillmor
    on Aug 9th, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    Jon, take a look at — they’re trying very hard to get at this problem. (I’m an advisor…)

    Seth, one of my hopes for citizen journalism is in the arena of media criticism. It’s not enough, no doubt, but it can help.

  7. #7 Jon Garfunkel
    on Aug 9th, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    Newstrust it is. I know it well, I met Fabrice at the Media Griaffe conference at Amherst last month. It’s funny, after the conference I popped onto PressThink and asked Jay how come he’d never mentioned MPR’s Public Insight Journalism. He conceded that he was an advisor (but it wasn’t publicly listed).

    And not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I suspect there’s a hesitancy to mention things are you are connected with– that’s a good thing for integrity.

    Yes, your original post was not about NewsTrust. But to me the question should not be what is valuable in paper money (BW’s focus), but what is valuable to society. And I suspect that the answer would come somewhere between the simple Digg approach and the thorough NewsTrust approach.

    I think what brings Seth and myself here– besides from the fulfilling the dictum to make news a conversation– is that these are turning into dog-bites-man stories. Yes, a few more people than usual had a bit of a grievance about, but when we start thinking about it, there’s a lot of other backstories to pursue.


  8. #8 Jon Garfunkel
    on Aug 9th, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    whoops– it looks like I signed Seth’s name there. Pretty fun. Must’ve started writing a new paragraph, but it was too long to read. Seth and I are different people. We live in Boston/Cambridge. We never meet. It just so happens that we end up responding to the same blog posts. — JON

  9. #9 wendy
    on Aug 25th, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    I’m aghast at the “little green footballs” website…While I certainly don’t condone doctoring photos –or any news–this website seems devoted to undermining critiques of reactionary policies–such as Israel’s recent blatant attack and invasion of Lebanon by finding slight indiscretions. For example, they focus on the fact that an aid worker –dubbed “green helmet guy”–made sure that a camera crew filmed dead children in Qana. Well, I’m sorry, but the story WAS dead children in Qana. But the LGF website seeks to divert attention from the outrageous and horrific actions of the IDF (Israeli military) to a few relatively minor indiscretions of the media or aid workers.
    Let’s not lose track of the real story for the smoke! (pun intended)

  10. #10 Dan Gillmor
    on Aug 26th, 2006 at 7:33 am

    I disagree with most of what I see at LGF, but in this case they got it right.