What Has Happened to Journalism?

The Wall Street Journal is one of the newspapers that I read every morning, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post.  I believe that the WSJ is one of the  best newspapers being printed today.  Unfortunately, the state of journalism today means that being one of the best is still not all that good.

AppleInsider has an excellent story today about how the WSJ ran an article in August in which speculation about features of two upcoming Apple products – what turned out to be the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus – were reported as fact.  For example, the WSJ reported that those phones would have ultra-hard Sapphire screens rather than glass screens to avoid shattering when dropped.  Even though reported as fact, this turned out to be speculation, and incorrect speculation at that.  The AppleInsider story (highly recommended) is here:  [link].

How did this happen?  Back when I worked for Mutual Broadcasting and for CBS, no journalist would ever go on-air without at least two independent corroborating sources.  No editor would allow risking the reputation of the organization by airing a story that was not completely checked out.  Granted, that was 35 years ago, and I know that things do change.  But isn’t the idea of journalism still to print FACTS, not SPECULATION?  I can speculate on my own – and my speculation is likely to be more accurate than their speculation due to my experience with Silicon Valley tech companies.  I depend on well-regarded news outlets for facts.

Now, the Wall Street Journal has printed a story by the same reporter, claiming that Apple made a last-minute strategic shift from using sapphire screens to using glass screens in iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.  I’ll just say, right here and now, that I don’t believe the story.  That reporter and (to a lesser extent) the WSJ have destroyed their credibility with me on the subject.  I don’t believe that Apple committed to an untried technology and only received testing samples weeks before its most important products were scheduled to be released.  I don’t believe that, when those samples were tested so late in the process, Apple shifted into panic mode and completely redesigned the screen to use glass rather than sapphire and was still able to get the glass version rushed into production and on sale on schedule.  I simply don’t believe what the WSJ is peddling is true.  I think that they are printing it only to attempt to make themselves look better for having printed speculation rather than fact back in August.

What I do believe is that a company like Apple would design a product to use a revolutionary new material, but not trust that the material would work out within the demanding time frame of a product introduction.  I believe that Apple would also have a design with “tried and true” materials that could be used in place of the new material – doing all of the testing on both options and even placing purchase orders to have both the new and the old materials sent to the factory.  Then, Apple would be able to put off the final decision on whether the revolutionary new material would be included in the product until as late in the process as possible, when all possible information was at hand.  That is how a mature company manages risk while pressing forward innovation.

I believe what I wrote in the previous paragraph is true – but it is speculation, not fact.  I can tell the difference.  Why cannot the Wall Street Journal also tell the difference?


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