Follow the money (er, announcement, that is)

Where does the news really originate these days?  The lines are getting pretty fuzzy.

Trolling through my Bloglines playlist, I found this link on CNet to an interesting post about AT&T hiring 2,000 additional workers to deal with the anticipated frenzy when the iPhone goes on sale next Friday.  Interesting, I thought.  Let me see how the master promoter Steve Jobs, ably assisted by a very savvy AT&T (and their agency, our friends at Fleishman-Hillard) are taking advantage of the anticipation to build the suspense AND do the right thing from a business perspective to handle the expected rush to buy.

So I clicked to the story and was told it was reported by CNN, so I clicked to that story, which tells pretty much the same tale, with this elaboration:

The employees “have already been hired and they have already begun working,” said AT&T (up $0.00 to $39.53, Charts, Fortune 500) spokesman Michael Coe.

But further up in the CNet post it says:

A report yesterday said AT&T plans to close its stores at 4:30 p.m. on iPhone Day, reopening at 6:00 p.m. to start selling a certain product.

So I clicked on that link and it took me to the exact same story posted on CNet’s Crave blog.  When I clicked on the report link there, it took me again to the same story and the same blog site.

Being both a former journalist and a long-time PR type, I next started checking to see if AT&T had released anything official about these hirings or store closings.  Nada.  One of my colleagues made this find.  Two weeks ago, AppleInsider reported that a college student said he’d been hired as a temp for the expected onrush of customers.

I guess the bottom line is that AT&T probably has done this; their spokesperson confirmed it.  But the facts around the story are swirling from conversations being reported by news sources such as Reuters and then a series of blogs.

We definitely are in a new world when it comes to news dissemination.  It means that a conversation with a savvy reporter may be all you need with a hot story like this to get the wheels in motion for great press and lots of speculation.  But it also means that rumors and inaccuracies could spin something out of control too.  This is what a lot of our clients are weighing as they work with the blogosphere as well as the traditional influencers.

I guess I want to make sure we don’t have to be CSI specialists to determine what the news truly is and whether or not it is accurate.