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Ken Magill

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Stupid Media Watch: The Biggest Slowdown that Never Happened

4/2/13

By Ken Magill

In the nineties as editor for marketing trade publication iMarketing News , I slowly drew the conclusion that the New York Times is generally full of crap as I began to realize it misreported major elements of every story of which I had personal knowledge.

“If they can’t get the stuff I know about right, why should I trust their coverage of issues I have little or no knowledge of?” I thought.

Yes, the Times isn’t alone in misreporting stories big and small, but its errors matter more.

Too few people in other media outlets question its coverage. In fact, a lot of editors and producers look to the Times to help formulate their own editorial agenda.

Nowhere has this flawed editorial groupthink been more evident than in the worldwide coverage of the DDoS attacks on anti-spam outfit Spamhaus.

“Firm Is Accused of Sending Spam, and Fight Jams the Internet,” said a headline on an article the Times ran on the attacks.

“A squabble between a group fighting spam and a Dutch company that hosts Web sites said to be sending spam has escalated into one of the largest attacks on the Internet, causing congestion and jamming crucial infrastructure around the world,” said the article’s lede.

“Millions of ordinary Internet users have experienced delays in services or could not reach a particular Web site for a short time,” the article continued.

Thing is, the reporters offered no evidence that any slowdown actually happened.

However, since what the Times reports is considered gospel by so many editors, media outlets around the world—including the BBC and Washington Post—ran with the Internet-access-is-being-choked-off storyline.

The Times published its first this-is-Internet-war-and-we’re-all-screwed piece on March 26. The BBC and the Washington Post published theirs on March 27.

The story went worldwide and apparently has yet to stop.

Last night, CBS 2 News in New York ran its version of the bogus cyber-war-affecting-us-all narrative.

The segment showed a woman at an outside café of some sort—presumably in New York, meaning she was filmed in the last few days while the weather was nice—having trouble accessing Netflix.

“Unfortunately,” news anchor Maurice DuBois said, “experts say service won’t speed up until the cyber war is resolved.”

But the DDoS attacks against Spamhaus ended more than a week ago.

I asked Spamhaus chief executive Steve Linford in an email last week if maybe the Times’ and other outlets’ coverage was as overblown as I thought it was.

“Internet didn't slow,” he replied, “only users along the routes that were under attack would have been affected, so probably a few hundred thousand users would have noticed, certainly not all internet.”

Gizmodo published a great debunking piece headlined: “That Internet War Apocalypse Is a Lie.”

What’s astonishing is that apparently none of the reporters filing these Internet-Apocalypse-Now stories asked themselves the question: “How come neither I nor no one I know is experiencing the outages I’m claiming are fact?”

Why didn’t their editors ask for a shred of evidence that these stories were true?

And, most importantly for this readership, why should this matter to marketers? Because by driving the agenda of other media outlets, the Times—along with the Washington Post—is also driving the agenda in Washington.

That agenda is decidedly anti-marketing. And as on other subjects, whether or not what the Times reports about marketing is accurate matters not a whit.

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