My wife and I like Channel 13 TV News here in Houston, and I can usually count on them for accuracy in their reporting. So, I was a bit surprised this morning when they reported a rumor about a talking iPod as news. They also made a statement that “Apple was feeling the heat” from its iPod competitors. Where did that come from?
Well, there is no talking iPod, and Apple has denied rumors of its upcoming release. That doesn’t mean there won’t be one; Apple routinely denies product reports before product releases even if the reports are accurate. The existence of Marklar, the OS X version that could run on x86 processors and is now on the street (and I’m using at home), is a prime example. But too often in today’s news, articles generated by other publications or agencies are reported as news without any independent verification of the accuracy of the stories. That’s what happened this morning when Channel 13 ran “the iPod news” based on an article originally published in “The Scotsman” and written by Richard Gray, “Science Correspondent”. Mr. Gray based his article on Apple patents filed in May to protect a computerized voice system. He speculated this system would be applied to the iPod in its next incantation, linking it to the iPod’s menu system as a means of providing voice feedback on which tune or playlist was being selected, the motivation being to prevent accidents. This is fine speculation, but that's all it is.
Further, Mr. Gray stated that Apple iPod sales were taking a hit because of the recent controversy surrounding working conditions at the Chinese factories where iPod’s are made. No other news source is reporting such a claim (other than those based on his article) nor have I seen any financial analyst reports stating that is the case. Further, I have seen no evidence that Apple is “feeling the heat” from its competitors, as much as it is feeling the heat of its own success. The market indications I’ve seen reported are indicating that the iPod market is leveling off. Reports also continue to indicate that no one has been able to make much of a dent in what is clearly an Apple dominated market.
It’s hard to say just how much of this goes on, but my bet is that it’s an especially prevalent practice in stories involving technology where most reporters are dependent either on the makers of the devices or those few reporters who really understand them. It’s also true that both TV and the Internet encourages the practice of running with a story before its time. News is now reported in almost real-time, pushing reporters and editors to forego checking the accuracy or the sources of stories before getting them to press or on the air.
A knowledgable Mac user at Channel 13 might have caught the subtleties and have warned them off. I guess that's the price you pay when reporting about Apple but you run an all PC shop. At least, that's what I speculate caused all this.
May they will write me back and tell me whether that was a good guess.