Story about France and the BlackBerry picked before it was ripe

GCN Insider | Products & trends that affect the way government uses technology

Quite a few media outlets jumped on the recent story of the French government banning BlackBerrys. Problem is, most of the articles were riddled with half-truths and outright errors.

For starters, there was no real ban on BlackBerrys. Instead, one French security agency was warning against their use. Why? Because, the articles said, the message servers reside in Great Britain and the United States. In fact, the BlackBerry message servers reside in Great Britain and Canada.

More important, virtually none of the articles pointed out that the same vulnerabilities the French say exist with the BlackBerry are also present in virtually every Internet connection. Eric Domage, a Frenchman and manager of IDC's Western European Security Research and Consulting group, said that if the French people took the warnings seriously, 'they must not use the Internet at all, they must not use the telephone at all, they must not use the computer at all. It's stupid.' [GCN, July 2, Page 9]

So why did the media handle this story so badly?

I'd venture there are two culprits: Wall Street and ever-shorter deadlines.

Media outlets are being pressed to deliver more news at lower cost. Staff is being cut in the interest of maintaining or increasing already high profit levels. One result of this is fewer people on the job with a good historical understanding of the area they're covering. Had the journalists or editors who ran the stories on France banning BlackBerrys known that the same charges had been made ' and responded to ' two years ago, they likely would have handled the story a little differently. But research takes time.

Which brings us to shorter deadlines. In this Web-driven world, news outlets feel increased pressure to be first ' and today, that often means within minutes of an event. That leaves little opportunity to check on a story or to dig into the background, which makes it easier for misinformation to make its way into stories.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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