Eat The Press

What's more important, being first or being right? When you put a question mark at the end of a sentence. you can conveniently sidestep that dilemma and just bask in the fact that you've got the story up before anyone else — even though the fact that you've got the story up before anyone else should probably be the tipoff that it's a hoax.

None of that bothers the NRO's Jonah Goldberg, who published this at 2:33pm this afternoon:

Castro Dead?
Two e-friends working on Wall Street say rumors are running around that he's bought the big one. I find nothing on the wires.

I found nothing on the wires, either. Or Google News. On Technorati, everyone's still searching for "Zidane" and "Rocketboom." But what I did find, after looking for "fidel castro" and "rumors" and "death" was that Ye Olde Dictator has a healthy history of fake death reports: see here, here, and, er, here.

I found a possible explanation here: "Castro has long been the subject of near-death rumors, despite the general health he enjoys at 79 years old. The reports usually originate in Florida's exiled Cuban-American community, where many have never forgiven the Cuban leader for taking power on the island during the 1959 revolution."

Blogger Michelle Collins wrote on "You Can't Make It Up" that she'd heard the rumor from her dad: "Father says that news radio in Miami is reporting the Venezuelan News Agency, or EFE, just confirmed Castro's death." Her dad had IM'd her the Goldberg NRO link, presumably to buttress his own story (Wonkette takes the opposite view). It should be noted, by the way, that Collins does not run a news blog; "You Can't Make It Up" is her hilarious personal blog.

It's now 6:00 pm, and the news-of-rumored-but-unconfirmed-news has trickled out - one hit in Google News and now at # 9 on Technorati Search. Over at The Corner, Goldberg's post has not been updated one way or another, and no one else has posted to clarify the story; over at Goldberg's hated New York Times, there is nary a mention of our jolly bearded Cuban. That might be because the story is an unconfirmed rumor.

I don't know why Jonah Goldberg felt compelled to post this unconfirmed rumor on the Corner and leave it dangling there unverified for four hours during the busy newsday; maybe he figured he'd look smart if it was right and had appropriately disclaimed if it turned out he was wrong. All I know is that in the world of responsible journalism, "word of mouth is never reliable." You can quote me on that - or him, actually.

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