Trying to make people afraid of enabling, empowering technology isn't bad journalism, it's an attack.
Yet that's exactly what happened last night when the New York Times published an article originally titled "Could wearable computers be as harmful as cigarettes?", later amended to "The Health Concerns in Wearable Tech".
But what does all this research tell the Apple faithful who want to rush out and buy an Apple Watch, or the Google and Windows fanatics who are eager to own an alternative smartwatch?
Nothing. Because no "research" was properly presented, no true experts were quoted, and nothing was done, in good faith, to further knowledge or understanding.
The Apple Watch is going to help many people in many ways. It's going to make the world more accessible for some, and it's going to make lives healthier and more fit for others. The NYT, by picking a narrative to make a story instead of researching facts to present one, is not only failing to inform but is actively disinforming. It's making its readership dumber.
That's the only really frightening thing about it.
For more information on the science behind Apple Watch, iPhone, and health, check out Derek Kessler's essay:
Update: In addition to numerous tech publications calling the article to task, Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times Public Editor has now weighed in as well:
Here's my take: Mr. Bilton's writing on technology — on which he's often engaging and informative — doesn't make him a health or science expert. It is, of course, possible for a non-expert to write effectively on a complicated subject but, when that happens, extra checking and caution is in order. That didn't happen here.
And although Mr. Bilton is a columnist, with plenty of leeway for expressing opinion, the careful interpretation of facts still matters. That, too, was lacking.
What's more, the original web headline felt like click bait, although it certainly reflected the top of the column. Toning it down was a smart move — in fact, a necessity. That change happened after Times Science staff members saw the first headline online and objected, Mr. Emmrich told me.