Forbes.com has a quick synopsis of today's debacle involving a reporter who should not be allowed to use a browser without adult supervision. The "reporter" for Income Securities Advisor, an investment info service, found a 6-year-old article about United filing for bankruptcy when using Google to search for news about distressed companies. The old story somehow appeared on the Florida Sun-Sentinel, and the reporter - for reasons known only to himself and God - decided to run the story without contacting UAL or otherwise verifying the story.
Within 10 minutes, UAL's stock had fallen from $12.45/share to $3/share before trading was halted. When Richard Lehmann, CEO of ISA, was asked about his responsibility in this matter:
Lehmann said his employee was not negligent in picking up the Sun-Sentinel story because it had no date on it and appeared current beside new content tracking Hurricane Ike in the Southeastern U.S.
Hellooooo? BECAUSE there wasn't a date on it, we assume that it must be current? We don't double-check anything?
And a few weeks ago, I read a long self-flagellation by the editor of the Rocky Mountain News. Apparently, a profile of Barack Obama on their web site included un-verified information from either biography.com, Internet Movie Database, or the Atlanta Journal Constitution. (And, worse yet, they chose to remove the incorrect information from their web site the next day without adding a correction.) Another candidate for training wheels on his web browser.
Let's hear it for mandatory information literacy courses in every school!
Update: MarketWatch has a good summary of the issues involved here, and manages to spread the blame around. What I found most interesting was Google's call to the MSM to do better jobs at self-documenting articles (my paraphrase); right now, a newspaper article can easily be scraped without capturing details like the publication date. Note to every value-added online service: in essence, Google is suggesting that publishers include controlled fields (date, publication, corrections, etc.) to each article. What an interesting acknowledgement that all the indexing that aggregators provide really makes a difference.