This Is Why I Never Report Rumors

Okay, maybe “never” is a strong word. But it’s a rare thing when I write about a rumor (I don’t even consider it unless it’s a sure thing), because 99% of rumors turn out to be bunk. Like that story about Tim Cook visiting Valve Software last week. You know, that completely non-news piece of “reporting” that never actually happened.

I’ll admit it: I was tempted to write about the Valve “story.” The implications of Tim Cook meeting with Valve’s Gabe Newell were awfully juicy. Just imagining what Apple and Valve might dream up together — a new game console? a partnership between the App Store and Steam? some advanced piece of gaming hardware no one had yet attempted — was, in a word, fun. It was also nonsense.

Co-branding with other major companies for new products is not Apple’s style. Sure, they use plenty of component parts from the likes of Samsung and Sony, but Apple’s products are always Apple products. Apple is also fond of the occasional acquisition, but those transactions are handled very discretely, and only done when a small company out there has some technology or know-how that Apple needs. Valve is neither a small company nor the owners of anything Apple needs.

The whole thing was ridiculous, made even more so by the fact that after it first appeared over at AppleInsider, every Apple blog in the known universe picked it up and regurgitated it, some embellishing it, others adding their own speculation to fuel the flames. (No offense to AI; they get just as much stuff right.) By my count, it was written about on somewhere between two and three hundred websites and blogs. It was stated and restated so many times, it became “news” by default. If your Apple or tech blog didn’t write about a story with potential implications this big, you couldn’t call yourself a real journalist covering Apple news. Right?

Except that everything about this story flies in the face of what responsible journalism is supposed to be. When did the definition of “journalist” or even “blogger” become synonymous with “rumormonger”? It’s one thing to write an opinion piece, or speculative predictions. Professional writers do this all the time, for newspapers, magazines, and yes, blogs. It’s another thing entirely to irresponsibly pass on today’s rumor du jour, particularly when it’s something that common sense says is baloney.

Late yesterday, lo and behold, Valve’s Gabe Newell told the world in no uncertain terms that this whole mess was 100% untrue:

No one here was meeting with Tim Cook or with anybody at Apple that day. I wish we were! We have a long list of things we’d love to see Apple do to support games and gaming better. But no, we didn’t meet with Tim Cook. He seems like a smart guy, but I’ve never actually met him.

I’ll grant that writing about Apple is a complicated business. Apple’s defcon level of secrecy makes it all but impossible to come up with anything to write about at times. Fact-checking and that sort of thing is out the window when it comes to Apple, because they never confirm or deny anything. (Heck, most of the time, they don’t even reply to press inquiries from bloggers.)

When you’re hired as a blogger, typically you’ve got a quota of so many Apple-related posts to write in a day or a week, and you’ve got to fill it with something. Actually coming up with something truly original to write about — something that other Apple blogs haven’t already done — is an extraordinary challenge, particularly considering the limitations of the topic. For a good deal of the time, it simply can’t be done.

But what’s the point of repeating “news” that’s not actually news? It’s offensive, it’s irresponsible, and it degrades the importance of what the media exists for.

So let’s make this official, with a formal statement of intent: As long as I’m the lead blogger at Apple Gazette, we will hold ourselves to a higher standard. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not going to pretend to be something we’re not. We’re not the paragon of stuffy, high-minded journalism or anything, here. We’ll have lots of fun, presenting cool original features and speculating about Apple’s future plans, we’ll write about real news, and we’ll post our discerning app and hardware reviews.

But we’re going to use our brains. We’re going to report about things that actually matter. We’re going to care more about quality than quantity. We’re going to think different. (That’s right, I said it.) And we’re not going to mindlessly repeat every crazy rumor that comes along.

You can get that junk anywhere.

[Image credit]

About Robin Parrish

Unathletic, uncoordinated tall man with endless creativity stampeding through his overactive brain. Comes with beard, wife, and two miniature humans. Novelist. General blogger and main Gaming Geek for ForeverGeek. Lead Blogger, Apple Gazette.

Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more robin!!

    I despise reading the same Apple rumors through multiple sites with zero credibility.
    It’s often difficult, but I also refuse to fuel the rumor mill!

    Good job

  2. settherecordstraight says:

    I personally believe that readers actually want (and expect) rumors to be reported to a certain extent. It fuels discussion, speculation and insight. Sometimes, it even drives competition in the market. Case in point, the rumored iTV.

    No one truly knows what the device will feature or if it will ever even be released. But manufacturers are already reacting to the rumors and working to create new lines of televisions to compete with Apple’s iTV.

    Granted, Isaacson quoted Steve Jobs in his Biography as stating that he, “finally cracked” the technology. But we all have heard that Apple tests many devices that never even seen the light of day. Yet, applegazette has blogged about the unannounced device at least three times just this year.

    But let’s be honest, your site’s recent “Why did Facebook buy Instagram” and “Ten iPad 3 Predictions” pieces also were not exactly contrived from pure facts. “Never” you say huh?

    Don’t hurt yourself Robin, as you dismount from that bloated high hoarse you’re perched upon.

    • There’s speculation based on educated guessing, and then there’s regurgitating the latest nonsensical rumor-of-the-week ad nauseum. The articles you cite from this blog fall into the former camp. The hundreds of “Apple is working with Valve on a new game console!” posts all over the web are the latter.

      The point of this was never, “Hey, look at us, we’re all that and a bag of chips!” I’ll take the fall for that if it came across as too self-important. The point was to call for responsibility in reporting, instead of repeating the latest fever-dream Apple fantasy over and over and over until people start believing it’s fact.

      • settherecordstraight says:

        Apple is a secretive company and therefore consumers, publications alike are left to speculate on upcoming products.

        Apple Gazette “regurgitated” plenty of the iPhone 5 rumors (two even on the same day in Sept 2011) which we all know Apple ended up releasing the iPhone 4S instead.

        Granted, bgr’s so-called “analysts” predictions get old. But your, “apple gazette is the shiny beacon of blogger truth” b.s. is simply nauseating…

        • I’m sorry you think so. If you don’t enjoy what we do, no one’s forcing you to be here.

          What I find nauseating is the convenient anonymity some people hide behind online, never revealing their names or any reason we should find anything they say remotely credible. You could be Barack Obama for all anyone knows. You haven’t added anything constructive to this conversation, so your only purpose here is to heckle.

          The articles you referenced came from last year, at a time when I was still new to this website and was trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. I freely admit, most of the stuff from that time period is pretty cringeworthy, and definitely not indicative of my best work. Now that I’ve been here a while, I have a much better handle on things, and I know what I want this place to be about. Consider the article above a statement of intent, if you like. As in, “From this day forward, this is the standard we’ll hold ourselves to.” Will it be perfect? Of course not. Will we be the best Apple blog on the net? We have a VERY long way to go to ever be in the running for that title, and we have no illusions about it. Will we fail? Probably, from time to time.

          But I’m a strong believer in the notion that if you have nothing original or worthwhile to say, then you should get off the stage. I have something to say now. Apple Gazette is laying claim to a distinct point of view. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s okay. If you enjoy it, cool. We’re excited to have you. If not, we wish you well and hope you find something more to your liking elsewhere.

          But hey, if you think I’m full of it — and clearly you do — then put your money where your mouth is and start your own Apple blog, so you can show the world what you think an Apple blog should be.

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