Thursday, 4 August 2011

What happened to the old journalistic habits?

A story which doubtless plenty of people found amusing in the last couple of days I instead found pretty bloody irritating. Picked up by pretty much everybody, including major and respected news organisations like the Beeb, the Telegraph and others, it was the suggestion that users of Internet Explorer have been shown to have a lower IQ than those of Google Chrome, Firefox etc.

Not a greatly vital story, nor one that too many people will take seriously, but it wasn't that I had a problem with. As I said, pretty much everybody picked this up and printed it, with the research coming from a company called AptiQuant, who claimed to have studied almost 100,000 people to glean the results. It seems it was readers of the item who noticed that this company had only seemed to exist for around a month and used photos of employees of another company entirely. It was clearly a hoax, which pretty much all the media outlets had swallowed.

"Nobody at AptiQuant was available to comment," was a resigned line I read on one of the sites who'd originally run the piece. No, no they weren't, were they? Of course, if anybody had thought to try to elicit a comment, or even check the validity of the tale, with this company before they just ran the thing, they may have rumbled it for what it was and actually been the only one to do so. Instead, in the rush, as usual, for instant news, everybody just pumped it out. An old fashioned journalistic habit of checking the facts before publication could have made a major difference, but those habits seem to have been ditched and the recycling of PR releases and spoon-fed, bite-sized 'news' has taken their place. What an indictment of the modern news media that is.

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