Remember that old chestnut about not believing everything you read in the paper? It's still true. And even more so in the internet age.
A case in point was yesterday's false rumor reported by our sister blog Engadget that the much-hyped Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone was going to be delayed. This is one the oddest episodes I've seen in my career as a business journalist.
From the start, there were plenty of red flags.
Firstly, why would a company whose obsession with media leaks rival that of the late Richard Nixon distribute an open memo to employees on such a sensitive topic? Apple is being closely followed by a huge and ever-growing number of media outlets. Any memo detailing anything regarding the much-anticipated iPhone would have been leaked within minutes. And let's credit Apple CEO Steve Jobs with a little more savvy than that. This is a company with a tense relationship with the media already.
Secondly, Apple would have been required to put out a public statement about an iPhone delay. In the eyes of the SEC, this is material information that must be disseminated. If you have any doubts about that, check the chart of the company's stock yesterday.
Should Engadget have been more careful about how it reported the rumor?
If Engadget hadn't reported the rumor, one of its many competitors surely would have. And it's the nature of new media that hot news -- true or otherwise -- will spread like a mushroom cloud throughout the blogosphere within minutes.
But the guys at Engadget know their stuff. It would only be a matter of time before the truth was rooted out and thusly reported.
What the Apple rumor highlights is how easy it is to concoct information to drive stock prices up or down. That's why investors need to skeptical of what they read in the media. Still.
Finally, we need to all calm down. Even if the iPhone were delayed, my BloggingStocks colleague Georges Yared correctly points out that it would haven't been the end of the world.