Two recent items brought into focus one of the downsides of today's communications environment, where speed can kill you … or almost kill you! The Dec. issue of O’Dwyer’s PR Report has an item titled “E-mail warns of store closings.” According to the report, shoppers across the nation were being told to spend their gift certificates at 30 chains before many of the stores – or the entire chain – closed. The problem is that there were inaccuracies in the e-mail, which has been "rocketing around the U.S. ... causing concern at chains that have already been hit with a tsunami of bad news.” The O”Dwyer’s report concluded with a comment that Bob Cuomo, Business School dean at Merrimack College, told a newspaper that the e-mail was loaded with unsubstantiated rumors and was further evidence that false reports on the Internet can hurt the economy.
As another example, United Airlines stock dropped 75 percent one day this Fall after a six-year-old story in the Chicago Tribune that United had filed for bankruptcy, appeared on Bloomberg’s news service. According to one media report, The Tribune Company “effectively blamed Google’s automated news search proves, where headlines are filtered by bots and algorithms rather than by humans.” The story in Digital Media warned that “considering the lightning-speed nature of news on the Web, investors have had the occasional sobering reminder that online media isn’t always accurate.”
The item, by Caroline McCarthy, which appeared in September, concluded with “Late last month, Bloomberg accidentally sent the draft of a Steve Jobs obituary over the wire momentarily; luckily it was pulled before incorrect reports of the Apple CEO’s demise could have any effect on company stock.”