Reports of the iPhone's imminent arrival in Washington appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
Jordan Golson of the Industry Standard has debunked a report last week by TheHill.com suggesting that the U.S. House of Representatives was seriously considering switching its mobile computer of choice from the BlackBerry to the iPhone based on strong demand. Golson followed up with Jeff Ventura, director of communications for the Chief Administrative Officer of the House, and Ventura said that the CAO is merely testing a small number of iPhones to see how they might fit into the organization.
That's not exactly how the story unfolded last week, as dozens of news sources--including yours truly, unfortunately--ran with TheHill.com's report that the iPhone was under serious consideration by the House. As often happens in these situations, the report quickly turned into a game of blogger telephone--with further amplification as it was passed around the Internet until much of the Apple community believed that Congress was set to become an iPhone shop at the start of the next congressional term in January.
Reached by phone Tuesday morning, Ventura chuckled at the attention that was paid to the "completely out-of-whack" headline ("iPhones are a must-have for Congress") attached to TheHill.com's story last week.
The CAO's operational staff is kicking the tires of 10 iPhones as a bit of an experiment, he said. Just two members of Congress have inquired about using an iPhone. There are serious security-related considerations to take into place; as it stands right now, iPhone users in the House would have to physically connect the device to their computers to sync their e-mail. "We're treading lightly on whether or not we're going to roll these things out," Ventura said.
As Golson points out, the Techmeme Snowball could have been avoided if one or two of us had reached out to Ventura as the story was making its way around the tubes. However, Golson's own article didn't appear until three days after the initial report came out, delayed by Internet connectivity issues and a full plate of other stories, he said via e-mail. At an awful lot of news organizations that measure time in hours, not days, that's a delay that is unforgivable, right or not.
Until the people running the news business rediscover the value of research and reason over speed and rhetoric, and until those who consume news demand it, this will continue to happen. At least in this case, it wasn't something as serious as a heart attack.