9to5Mac Needed iPhone-Scoop Sources

On Aug. 30, the long-running website 9to5Mac broke what it said was an exclusive find of a new iPhone photo and a new model name.

The Apple-enthusiast public took it as a scoop, along with a similar article about a new watch Apple is expected to announce today.

The iPhone article and photo have driven extended discussion among the Apple faithful since.

The enthusiasts should not have put great belief in the report.

The article contains a basic journalistic flaw of having no source. There is no “who,” “where” or “how.” Such facts are ground-floor requirements in a news article: They are who, what, where, when, why and how — the five W’s and an H.

On Aug. 30, 9to5Mac published an article saying that the photo above shows new iPhones to be announced today, without explaining how it knew the photos were accurate or how it learned the model name. The article provided no sources for the information.

In the article, “Exclusive: This is ‘iPhone XS’ — design, larger version, and gold colors confirmed,” Guilherme Rambo wrote, “We believe that the new 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch iPhones will both be called iPhone XS.”

Also, Rambo wrote, “we can report with certainty that iPhone XS will be the name, the OLED model will come in two sizes, including a larger version, and each will be offered in gold for the first time.”

Nowhere in the article did Rambo or the website say where the information was obtained or how. It was attributed to no person, no leak and no process of digging out digital details from computer code, for which Rambo is respected.

Rambo should have known better, as should the editors of 9to5Mac. Readers should have been more discerning as well.

John Gruber wrote on his Daring Fireball website, “I suspect Rambo, who is extraordinarily clever at finding things, somehow discovered them through a URL that was exposed publicly but should not have been.”

Monday, Rambo provided the source on Twitter — 12 days after his article published.

“So, about those marketing images: They came from the recap section of the special event website,” Rambo wrote. “I used the URL pattern from the last event and guessed the device’s names. Apple took them down immediately after we published.”

Regardless of whether every detail reported Aug. 30 proves correct during Apple’s product announcement today, Rambo and 9to5Mac were wrong to publish the Aug. 30 article without sources.

Glenn Marston has been a newspaper managing editor twice, editorial page editor twice and assistant editor three times, and is an author. He studied journalism at the University of South Florida, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications.

Article Podcast — Tech Geek Fact