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Write Third

By Rich

One of the things I truly love about writing for Securosis and TidBITS is that I am rarely put in a position where I need to be first to write about something. As a writer, and occasionally a journalist, I consider time the ultimate luxury. Unfortunately, few journalists have this liberty, and even fewer appreciate it.

Yesterday was a perfect and tragic expression of the state of modern media, where writers are forced to report – not only as quickly as possible, but often without any facts or sources.

It all started with a computing.co.uk article quoting the CTO of Kaspersky claiming they were “working with Apple” to analyze OS X (at Apple’s request). To anyone with any knowledge of Apple this was obviously less likely than me giving birth to a flying monkey. There were three possible options here:

  1. Kaspersky lied.
  2. The reporter didn’t hear correctly.
  3. The reporter lied.
  4. Kaspersky was telling the truth, in violation of whatever NDA they signed with Apple.

Here’s where it got interesting. After that initial article, all sorts of other outlets started reporting the news – from CNet and TUAW, to The Verge and Ars Technica. All quoting the same source – the computing.co.uk article.

Within a few hours Kaspersky’s CTO walked back the claim and said he was quoted out of context. computing.co.uk claimed they asked the question multiple times for clarity and the claim was clear and explicit. Then all the other articles issued updates and corrections.

This isn’t about Apple, and this isn’t about Kaspersky. It isn’t even a flagellation of the media – they are effectively forced to ‘report’ stories without sources or confirmation, due to their market conditions.

But as readers (and for some of us, writers), it’s important to understand that environment – especially where security is concerned. Few media outlets rely on multiple sources and traditional journalistic standards anymore. Many issue ‘definitive’ articles based on tweets, blog posts, or something they heard while sitting quietly on the crapper (if they work for News Corp).

The first reports are usually wrong. The second reports are usually copies of the first report. The third round of articles is where the truth might start creeping in. Every time I witness one of these throwdowns or walkbacks, I feel incredibly fortunate that my livelihood isn’t dependent on capturing page views.

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