It turns out the Wall Street Journal’s sloppy journalism cuts both ways. On Friday I blogged about how the WSJ was reporting that the RIAA had ceased filing lawsuits against individual file sharers. Stupidly, I didn’t really think about their source or attempt to verify the claims myself. Neither did the Associated Press.
Ray Beckerman (who had skeptically acknowledged these reports when the WSJ article first surfaced) has discovered that the RIAA filed another round of lawsuits against individuals just last week, a discovery that directly conflicts with the WSJ piece.
The WSJ’s article suffers from exactly the same flaws as its piece on network neutrality; high on conjecture, low on meaningful facts about the get of the article. The lead establishes that the RIAA is “set to drop its legal assault” but goes on to describe the negotiations the RIAA is establishing with the ISP industry. Noticeably missing from the rest of the article is any evidence demonstrating that the RIAA is actually stopping its legal assault.
So we only have ourselves to blame — we read what we wanted to read and without Ray Beckerman’s excellent sleuthing, we might still be giving the RIAA credit for coming to its senses.
Whether it was the RIAA lying to reporters (which Ray seems to believe is the case) or the WSJ trying to see a story where there wasn’t one, this was a case of not thinking critically enough about sources and evidence based reporting. Either way, if the network neutrality article didn’t give you enough reason to distrust the WSJ’s technology reporting, this incident should. This also leads me to believe that the WSJ has under-critical technology reporters rather than a malicious agenda to purposely misunderstand technology topics.
There’s a lot to be cleared up in this situation and there is probably some truth to the RIAA winding down their lawsuits, but I don’t think we should hold our collective breath or consider this the victory we initially did.
In all fairness to the Wall Street Journal, the same misinformation was provided to — and repeated by — Wired.com and Associated Press.