Two Blogs Don’t Make a Right

Here’s an example of blogging as bad journalism and the problem with the viral Web.

Gizmodo has a short post (Aren’t they all?) about the monumental influence of Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walt Mossberg. I know Walt, so I was immediately interested in the item, time-stamped 8:23 a.m. EDT today. Opening:

“Bow to Walter the Merciless, for he definitely influences the market and can decide if a product is worthy of living or not. At least according to ‘The Value of Quality: Stock Market Returns to Reviewed Quality of New Products,’ a new research paper that has analyzed Mossberg’s product reviews and their effect on companies’ valuations during a 10-year period. The conclusion: He could make stock prices tank or soar by as much as 10%. And that’s without using his mental control powers.”

Gizmodo links to week-old Business Week blog post: “Walt Mossberg reviews: Worth hundreds of millions?” The writer wrote that he “just got this email” about “a new study from the University of Miami and USC” that “is to be released next month.” The blogger then linked to the study, which is available now.

Did the Business Week and Gizmodo bloggers bother to read the report’s title page? The study isn’t at all “new.” It’s dated Feb. 2007, but the findings were presented in 2006, according to a Web page listing presentations made by one of the two authors.

On the report download page that both blogs linked to, Social Science Research Network offers suggested citation: “Tellis, Gerard J. and Johnson, Joseph, ‘The Value of Quality: Stock Market Returns to Reviewed Quality of New Products’ (February 2007). Marshall School of Business Working Paper No. MKT 02-07 Available at SSRN:” What about the date doesn’t say February 2007?

Exactly how difficult is it to even glance at the thing you’re writing about? There’s a real disregard for fact checking here. Somebody gets an email, blogs it and links to the research paper. Somebody else sees the blog post, reblogs it a freakin’ week later, further citing new research that isn’t.

I really worry that in a decade, the Web will be one big source of misinformation, the place of endless urban legends perpetrated as fact. It’s one thing for people to gather around the Twitter water cooler and gossip. It’s something else when Business Week and Gizmodo get something so basic so very wrong.

Photo Credit: JD Lasica