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The actions of internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, no stranger to controversy, have sparked a debate about media credibility after his off-the-wall tweets about the Apple tablet were picked up by prominent online and offline media outlets.

Prior to the launch of the iPad, Calacanis tweeted that he had been "beta testing" the "Apple tablet" for two weeks and spilled the beans on his experience and the specs. From old media stalwarts like CNN and the Wall Street Journal to new media mavens like TechCrunch and Silicon Alley Insider, 'reporters' were quick to relay Calacanis' claims to their audiences.

Amongst those claims: Apple's new tablet would have solar panels, a personal video recorder, a fingerprint reader, an HDTV tuner, facial recognition and wireless charging. Taking the joke too far, Calacanis also threw in a claim that the iPad sported a custom version of the popular Facebook app Farmville which enabled a user to "shake the tablet to plant seeds then wobble it to spread water around".

Needless to say, Calacanis' claims were patently ridiculous. So ridiculous that they should have raised red flags for anyone who read them. Yet numerous online and offline outlets took the bait hook, line and sinker.

Sure, most of the posts/articles that were written pointed out that there was no way to verify Calacanis' claims, but that's sort of like writing an article about the invention of a time machine and including a disclaimer that person claiming to have tested it might not be telling the truth.

So what gives? One of the reasons some bought into Calacanis' claims: because they came from Calacanis, a well-known internet entrepreneur who has never sought attention (note: sarcasm). Some, like Henry Blodget, trusted what Calacanis tweeted because, in his words, "Flat-out making all this stuff up will backfire, and Jason is smart enough to know that."

Of course, as Loren Feldman has pointed out in his trademark NSFW style, the claims themselves were so totally absurd that any tech 'journalist' should have been skeptical. The implication: trust trumped due diligence. A possible scoop trumped accuracy. Gut reactions trumped common sense.

The interesting this is that this isn't a new media versus old media thing anymore. Over the years, plenty of criticisms have been lobbed at new media on issues ranging from accuracy to ethics. Many of them were lobbed by members of old media. But old media, struggling to stay relevant, has apparently bought into the 'if you can't beat them, join them' mentality and warmly embraced the 'report first, ask questions later' mantra that new media lives by in its quest for pageviews.

That means that when fake news breaks, both new and old media can now be counted on to report it. What happens on Twitter does not always stay on Twitter. Unfortunately, sometimes it should.

Patricio Robles

Published 29 January, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (1)

Mike Stenger

Mike Stenger, MikeStenger.com

The thing is, Jason was just messing around and having a good joke. At first, some of his tweets we're believable and then it just got downright hilarious! I do understand what you're saying though Patricio about the whole ordeal and yes, he's well known and has an audience that trusts him, but I am kind of leaning towards his side. The simple fact is and what all of us learn in basic social studies/history is that you must look at multiple trusted resources to determine if something is fact or not. So many tech sites and who knows what other sites out there, will post something whether it's been confirmed or not, simply for the traffic. It is how they stay in business but you've got to take into consideration, "Do we want to be thought of as a RUMOR site or something better?".

over 6 years ago

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