Gizmodo went ahead and published an article based on the tip, labeling it as a rumor, albeit one from a trusted source. Engadget received the same tip and after a little digging debunked it as a prank.
But here’s where things get interesting in a new media kind of way. Shortly after the tip was proven to be false, Gizmodo went back and edited the original article. The author left an explanation and apology in the comments. And today, Gizmodo’s editor published an internal memo to the site’s writers on the web page, outlining his thoughts and what should be the site’s policy for dealing with rumors.
The truth of the matter is an old media newspaper or broadcast station probably wouldn’t have run with the rumor in the first place, at least not without thoroughly checking it out first. And probably not even then. But if they had run a story like this, there’s little chance that the “mea culpa” would have been so public. Corrections don’t usually make the front page. And internal memos pretty much never do (assuming this is actually the letter Brian Lam sent to his staff).
For the most part, the Gizmodo readers who have left comments to the original post and to the memo have been understanding and supportive. The writers work fast and they work long hours. Mistakes happen. Fortunately, so do corrections. But I think it’s the sense of a conversation between the writers and their audience that contributes to that sense of understanding.