iPad email leak; Chrome bugs plugged by Apple: failure of online press

Gawker's misleading article

Let me rant a bit. I’ve been using a horrible piece of software that cost me 200$ CAD. It’s called Microsoft Office 2008. Today, in the middle of a freelance job, it crashed. Badly. Three files I was using and saving religiously went back to square one. I consider it a mercy though as I was fed up with that job anyway. But Microsoft Office 2008 problems aside, I’ve come across another troubling bit. TMA have made mistakes publishing stuff before. Hell, we’re bite-sized hobbyists. Prankster site, Gawker, however, isn’t. And neither is TechCrunch.

The pair made silly assumptions – headline-making, attention-grabbing assumptions today about Apple.

Firstly, Gawker took the anti-Apple side, writing: “Apple’s Worst Security Breach: 114,000 iPad Owners Exposed”, a negligent claim. The iPad did suffer a leak: 114 000 emails were leaked out in the open, but it wasn’t a breach from Apple’s garden, it was AT&T’s error. AT&T have explained things, turned the ‘feature’ off and hope the wind goes north.

Gawker (who own a vast network of attention-whoring websites) have an interesting history of publicity stuntwork. Buying the stolen iPhone 4 prototype is one. Their childish CES prank is another. Unfortunately, articles like this are free press (le sigh) for one of yellow-journalism’s biggest proponents.

TouchMyApps probably split in our opinion of Gawker. I like Gawker and Gizmodo as much as I repect Oprah while Louis and ChiffaN harbour less-focused animosity.

TechCrunch aren’t bullies and they’re certainly not childish crapheads either. But in reporting that Apple fixed a few Chrome bugs, they missed a little truth. Webkit, which powers Apple’s Safari and Google Chrome is a project that Apple open-sourced after a code fork in 2002. TechCrunch should have noted this. Apple didn’t ‘fix’ bugs in Chrome, they patched a bit of Webkit, the engine that runs both competitor’s browsers.

Today was an eye-opener. FGawker and TechCrunch, each took sides on Apple news. TechCrunch (bless them) took the highroad in comparison to Gawker’s outright lie: Apple DID patch code that is in Google Chrome and Safari. But Gawker, the Samsung (in more ways than one) of online media outlets, showed today that size doesn’t matter.

I am not for established publications like NYT or the Guardian lashing out at online media houses and developers – that is childishly anti-competitive. But blunders like today by big online media houses reference a problem: online journalism, despite its fastidious and openly partisan delivery of the goods, is flawed. It takes no time to gab up a blog post, grammar-correct it (right, so that’s something I’ve yet to suss), and doff its load to the interweb.

We — yes, TouchMyApps fits somewhere in among online media houses — are not professionals in the same sense as the blokes and blokets in the NYT and the Guardian. We are given to chase headlines, not facts. Who really monitors our claims? Our readers? Us? And after making a mistake, it’s pretty easy to just go in and patch things up because we don’t employ printing presses.

It’s no conspiracy that big houses want to control journalism. They ARE better in many ways. They’ve more real professionals (ratified boffins and real, studied journalists) behind their print. Some online media houses are professionals too: they do their homework without chasing headlines. They give credit where credit is due. They report factually rather than emotionally. In the end though, they, like their brick-and-mortar publishing competition are just accredited money-grubbing businesses. That is the internet.

And, thank the gods for so instant web-delivered gratification, that’s okay. The internet is the truest form of free speech (for many countries) today. Type a little ditty, hit ‘publish’, wait a few seconds, and there it is: free speech digitised, set in the new stone of silicon and electrons.

I just wish that the bigguns’ would set their own bar higher.

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