Every September for the last two years I have read about a story which illustrates the dangers of search in terms of a research tool for journalists and how search results influence the public’s perceptions about an organisation. 2008 is no different. The Guardian recently reported about how “shares in a US airline fell sharply after a six-year-old story about the company filing for bankruptcy protection was accidentally circulated by a news website.” The error occurred when a journalist searched for ‘bankruptcy 2008′ and the offending six year old story came up in the results. The error slipped through the editorial controls and ended up online. I have noted similar incidents in 2006 and 2007, but neither was on the scale of this accident.

It has been interesting to observe the level of trust placed in websites like Google and Wikipedia to find information without checking the validity of what is found. The Internet never forgets and in this incidence it has proved costly. Obviously more stringent controls are required in newsrooms, but the likelihood of similar occurrences are more common than you would think given how streamlined and deadline driven media outlets have become. Organisations though need to be mindful though that Google is a portal to perceptions about their reputation.

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Piaras Kelly
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