Fierce Mobile On Media, AntennaGate and Steve Jobs

Will Richmond (FierceMobile) tackles AntennaGate today. I didn’t see his referenced Steve Jobs quote when I went looking for facts-and-data on Friday, but I think it sums up the state of much of what passes for “news” on the web today:

Sometimes I feel that in search of eyeballs for these web sites, people don’t care about what they leave in their wake.

Newspapers and TV/radio reporting have always had issues related to deadline pressure. I recall in 1984 when our second floor wooden deck decided to become detached from our Carlisle PA home … while we were having a housewarming. More than a dozen guests (most of whom we did not know) — along with me — tumbled to the ground. Ambulances (yes, multiple) showed up; my memory is that there was one broken bone (minor). But the press (Harrisburg PA) also showed up and butchered the story. Plus, the TV station showed images of kids laughing and playing in our backyard, making them (and us) look callous. (It was the pre-scheduled party-after-the-housewarming: we were going to cancel but our friends insisted on coming and helping us clean up the mess.) It was a wake-up call to this (much younger!) then-PR person.

So I have no illusions that “public interest” drives each-and-every media story or that it has ever done so. But the attitude that the business press and some portions of the tech press have had toward Apple over the years seems almost personal in its unveiled animosity.

Richmond implies that the media treatment is somehow new. I don’t think so. One of the first websites I built in the mid-90s was a “fact check” site about Macintosh computers. (That site also got me an invitation to compete for a slot in the about-to-be-launched site, TheMiningCo, that would become About.com.) He writes:

In all the articles I read about Antennagate, the consistently missing piece was a real world quote from an actual iPhone 4 buyer who returned the device due to signal issues (Jobs revealed the returns number: a paltry 1.7%, less than a third of those who returned the iPhone 3GS). Absent this real-world sanity check, I had pretty much decided a while back that Antennagate was more about the media making a mountain out of a molehill to attract readers than anything else.

[…]

[W]ith respect to Antennagate, Jobs put his finger right on the problem of how today’s media, too focused on one-upmanship and not enough on facts and restraint, works. Antennagate is a textbook example of why online news readers who are trying to be smarter about how they run their businesses need to read judiciously and cautiously. Sorting the real from the imagined when you’re being bombarded by headlines on a daily basis is admittedly no easy task, but as Antennagate shows us, it’s more important than ever.

With Antennagate, the Internet’s echo-chamber was in full gear. Stories with no new facts ricocheted through blogs, Twitter, RSS feeds and even mainstream media each day. For sure Apple bobbled the ball along the way, further feeding the frenzy. Antennagate seemed to reach a crescendo of ridiculousness when Consumer Reports posted about why it couldn’t recommend the iPhone 4. Instead of simply saying that by adding a bumper (something the vast majority of iPhone users seem to do anyway) the problem would be solved, Consumer Reports suggested using duct tape, a ludicrous hack that of course then became a touchstone of Antennagate.

And I agree with him that the Consumer Reports article struck me as odd, outside of what I think of as their almost encyclopedic neutrality. What’s even more odd is that CR has not, to my knowledge, conducted similar tests of other smartphones. Will they? I doubt it — and the fact that I do doubt it makes me sad. Such is the state of trust in today’s over-saturated media landscape.

What do you think? Is this a trend (evolution of reporting) or something triggered by the instant-gratification of the Internet? Regardless, what are the implications for news organizations?

One thought on “Fierce Mobile On Media, AntennaGate and Steve Jobs

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Kathy E. Gill

    July 19, 2010 at 1:51pm

    John Gruber (Daring Fireball) wonders, too:

    Curiously, Consumer Reports’s list of “Recommended” smartphones includes all of the smartphones suffering from “holding it wrong” attenuation I’ve linked to tonight …I’d link directly to Consumer Reports’s web page for this list, but can’t, because it’s behind a paywall that their coverage of the iPhone 4 antenna is not.

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