FC: The Register reluctantly admits RIAA "secret meeting" was hoax(fwd)

Eugene Leitl Eugene.Leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de
Thu, 11 Oct 2001 13:55:09 +0200 (MET DST)


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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 00:35:58 -0400
From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
To: politech@politechbot.com
Subject: FC: The Register reluctantly admits RIAA "secret meeting" was hoax

It was the perfect, evil-music-industry story: A clandestine meeting
where chieftans from AOL Time Warner, RIAA, SDMI, Disney, Intel, and
even U.S. senators sat down to decide how to stop piracy, embrace
copy-protection technology, and generally screw over American
consumers.

The Register got the tip from an anonymous source, and immediately
turned it into an article. It said: "The RIAA hosted a secret meeting
in Washington DC with the heads of major record labels and technology
companies, plus leaders of other trade bodies and even members of the
US senate." (http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/22087.html).

It would have been a tremendous scoop for the website -- and would
have been vital information that the public deserved to know.

The only problem: It was a hoax. The purported "meeting" was a
fabrication, spoof, and fantasy. It never took place.

I don't typically criticize fellow journalists -- we all make
mistakes, we never have as much information as we'd like, and
deadlines are always too early -- but this article is beyond the
pale. Instead of checking to see whether the alleged participants were
still employed by their respective companies (some weren't), spending
two minutes on the phone asking RIAA whether it happened, or using the
barest glimmerings of journalistic sense, the Register credulously
reported fiction as fact.

In a grudging retraction on Wednesday, the paper compounded its
problems by beginning its article with this line: "The trouble
with the Internet is that it's just too darn fast."
(http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/31/22138.html)

No, the trouble has nothing to do with the Internet. It has everything
to do with shoddy journalism. Worse yet, the halfhearted retraction
still argued, pitifully and implausibly, that the quotes supplied by
Anonymous "may" still be accurate. An update to the original article,
instead of saying forthrightly we-were-hoaxed, instead allowed only
that "our source may not be all he or she claimed to be." Right.

Caveat lector.

-Declan



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