News “broke” over the weekend via a leak from Apple itself that the company still offers the low-end iMac model with a smaller, 17-inch screen, though it is available exclusively for education customers. The news came via the Apple eNews for Education newsletter for March, although clicking the “Buy” link from the iMac page does not reveal the option to buy a 17-inch model, at least not in the U.S. education store where I attempted it. It’s still there, but you may have to try to get a quote for a bulk purchase as an educational institution to find it.
Maybe it’s because the iMac is so tricky to find that the story got picked up so quickly over the weekend, and by so many different outlets, but readers were quick to point out that the “news” of a possible $899 iMac was in fact not news at all, since the model has been available at that price point since 2006. In fact, rather than being the deal of the century, the iMac priced at $899 is actually probably one of the least appealing value propositions available from Apple, unless you want an old white plastic model to keep sealed in a box in the hopes that it will become a priceless collector’s item in 20 years time.
This story was picked up by everybody, including Gizmodo, MacRumors and Engadget (although Giz and Engadget have taken it off of their main site; Giz link leads to their Australian site), among many others, as such serving as yet another example of how susceptible Apple news reporting is to manipulation, even if the original “leak” was not intentional. At least MacRumors didn’t immediately try to backpedal to avoid embarrassment. Mistakes in print are not so easy to undo. Tech publications: Admit it when you screw up, instead of trying to go back in time and erase any evidence of a less-than-perfect track record.
This example also shows pretty clearly what we can do to reduce our susceptibility to manipulation. The answer? Take five seconds to fact-check before you hit the publish button. Ours is admittedly a fast-paced news cycle, but artificially and unnecessarily so. In fact, nothing we report has dire consequences, if you really think about it, so hanging on to a story in the interest of accuracy will better serve readers than publishing mistaken information at a break-neck pace.