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Dewey Wins and Other Tall Tales

In the digital world, do we care anymore about the difference between news and rumor?

by on Apr.24, 2009

Deadlines are always a problem, as this legendary photo reminds us.  But in today's 24/7 news business, there's less and less incentive to divine the difference between wild rumor and solid news.

Deadlines are always a problem, as this legendary photo reminds us. But in today's 24/7 news business, there's less and less incentive to divine the difference between wild rumor and solid news.

There’s a rampant prairie fire blazing in the automotive media, and its swept from Detroit throughout the rest of the world.

There’s no surprise, considering the current crisis, that even the most mainstream publishers are looking to break news about the fate of General Motors, Chrysler and the rest of the troubled auto industry.  Everywhere you turn, in print or online, headlines tout the latest stories.  Or should I correct that and say they blare the latest rumors and innuendos.

“Chrysler’s Unions Won’t Budge,” begins one report.  “A Deal With The Canadian Union is Near,” counters another.  “Fiat Ready to Walk From Chrysler,” declares a third, while others insist Fiat’s CEO, Sergio Marchione, is more committed than ever to doing a deal with the U.S. maker – often citing the CEO’s own comments to prove their point.  Still others chime in that the Italian exec is also ready to buy a small/major/controlling stake in GM’s troubled European subsidiary, Opel.

Friday’s rumor du jour concerned the Pontiac division, which GM has pledged to downsize into a niche operation.  Not good enough, says the White House, insisting Pontiac must be shuttered entirely.  At least that’s what the rumor mill is churning out.  Never mind GM’s denials.  What matters, right now, is all about making the most memorable headlines.  They’re coming so fast and furious, it seems to be irrelevant whether the stories are right or wrong.  There are so many, after all, the public likely won’t remember who hit the mark and which media outlets are shooting blanks.

In a sense, what we’re reading says as much or more about another seriously troubled industry: the news business.

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