According to report published on CNN's iReport this morning, Apple CEO Steve Jobs suffered a heart attack, causing Apple's stock price to plummet until Apple officially denied the report.
CNN's iReport, for those not familiar with it, is a "citizen journalism" site that allows any registered user to submit news stories. Think forum, but with James Earl Jones doing the voice over.
We don't know for sure why somebody posted the false story about Jobs yet, but we can guess: it may have been a simple lark, but more likely it was a stock price manipulation scheme. Schemes that seek to manipulate stock prices for greed outside of the accepted legal norms have been in existence as long as there have been stock exchanges. Emails, newsletters, fake media releases, rumor spreading...the list goes on and on.
99% chance that what occurred this morning is part of a scam, so why are some leading sites saying that citizen journalism has failed?
Sarah over at ReadWriteWeb leads with the idea in the headline: "Steve Jobs Had No Heart Attack...And Citizen Journalism Just Failed," Silicon Alley Insider's Henry Blodget, who should be able to see a scam a mile away, writes that "Citizen journalism apparently just failed its first significant test."
It hasn't. What we've seen here is likely a traditional stock scam, and an execution failure from a leading media company. It says absolutely nothing about citizen journalism at all.
On the execution side, CNN iReport was used as a cheap way of finding story leads and growing site traffic for CNN, with very little actual oversight. Submissions are not moderated, and while you can't possibly moderate everything on the internet, if you're running a respectable news outlet and people are submitting stories, you most certainly can and should moderate every single news item that hits the site. The fail card lies with CNN, and if Apple sues, they'll be paying for their laziness and poor execution as well.