Friday, October 3, 2008

About Investing, Steve Jobs, Heart Attacks, Rumors, and Getting a Grip

'It's on CNN, it must be true.'

Well, no.

Particularly when its on, a do-it-yourself news service run by CNN. The slogan is "Unedited. Unfiltered. News." I'd say they got two out of three right, with a 'maybe' on the third.

I have no problem with how CNN is running the website. I think they've got a good idea: a sort of journalistic version of Wikipedia.

And the dicey nature of posts on is very clearly spelled out. The About page starts:

"The views and content on this site are solely those of the contributors. CNN makes no guarantees about the content or the coverage on!

"Lots of people argue about what constitutes news. But, really, it's just something that happens someplace to someone...."

That first paragraph is in bold, and the sentence ends with an exclamation mark.

I'm inclined to agree about the start of the second paragraph. My first successful publishing effort online was (and is) the Sauk Centre Journal, although I tell people that it's everything that isn't news in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.


No, not really. But when this headline showed up yesterday, "Steve Jobs rushed to ER following severe heart attack," Apple stocks dipped.

They're back up, now.

Here's what 'citizen journalist' johntw had to say: "Oct 2, 2008 ... Steve Jobs was rushed to the ER just a few hours ago after suffering a major heart attack. I have an insider who tells me that paramedics ...". That fragment, from a Google search page, is all I found of johntw's article. That was around noon, central time.

CNN's has done some quick housecleaning. The "Steve Jobs rushed to ER following severe heart attack" article's link now leads to a page that says, "This content is currently unavailable." profile on now reads, in its entirety, "This profile is no longer available."

Think With Your Brain, Not Your Endocrine System

If I owned stock in Apple, I'd be a bit startled by a headline like's. But I like to think that, before dumping part of my portfolio, I'd take a deep breath and think. Where did this information come from? How reliable is it? Is it verified anywhere? Is it verifiable?

From the sounds of it, there was a wonderful opportunity to buy Apple stocks as panicky investors dumped what they had.

Isn't Steve Jobs Important to Apple?

Apparently, yes. Conventional wisdom seems to say that As Steve Jobs goes, so goes Apple.

One of the advantages of a company that's very 'personal,' like a sole proprietorship, is that it can react quickly to changes, and make decisions that don't come from a gaggle of Dilbertesque executives.

The catch is that, when the company's leader leaves, the company falls apart, or at least has to go through major changes, fast.

Rumors: Great Entertainment; Not So Great Guidance

I enjoyed seeing headlines about space alien abductions and Elvis sightings. The current crop of tabloid editors don't seem to have quite the same imaginative edge, but I still see some amazing things at the grocery checkout.

That headline about Steve Jobs was a bit more plausible than those Elvis and the Space Aliens stories, but honestly, now: is it reasonable to make financial decisions based on an unsubstantiated story?

Information that starts with 'some guy said he heard that...' isn't the most reliable in the world. And I think that is learning, as Wikipedia did a few years ago, that some people just don't bother with facts when they write.

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