We need traditional media, we are told from time to time, because all blogs do is regurgitate each other’s ramblings while newspapers report real news. I’m a fan of newspapers–I actually get three dead-tree editions delivered daily–but it ain’t necessarily so. The old media can recirculate bad info every bit as badly as the blogs.
A case in point is a meme making its way around the web about how some universities are, for reasons never quite specified, banning iPads from their campuses. This one seems to have started with a mostly correct April 6 Wall Street Journal online article about assorted difficulties that iPads were encountering on various university networks. The story noted that iPads can’t manage some security feature’s of George Washington University’s network, that Princeton had blocked some iPads from its network, and that Cornell was worried about the data demands of iPads overwhelming its network.
As the story made the rounds, problems became outright bans. The Christian Science Monitor reported on April 20 that Princeton had banned iPads. And BusinessWeek reports in its current issue: “Princeton University won’t allow its students to use the device on campus Wi-Fi networks because of data security worries.” Of course, dozens of blogs added to the noise.
The problem is that none of this is true. The Princeton story emerged first. The university’s network administrators started having problems with iPads when they first appeared on campus and the difficulty was traced to a disruptive interactions between the iPad and the system that assigns internet addresses to wireless devices. The Office of Information Technology has published and regularly updated detailed information on the status of the problem. At no time did Princeton ever ban iPads, though it has blocked misbehaving units from its network and warned students for a time that they were likely to have problems.
The Cornell situation is more clearcut. ““We have researched the issue and have found no negative impact at Cornell at this time,” the Cornell Daily Sun quoted university IT director Dave Vernon as saying. There is not and never has been a ban, and iPads are sold in the Cornell bookstore.
At George Washington, iPad-toting students do have a real problem, though they are not faced with any sort of ban. “The University has not banned the iPad,” its web site declares. The difficulty is that the GW wireless network requires software–apparently a virtual private networking client, though the web site is not explicit–that does not exist for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. No software, no access. The university says it hopes to have iPad connectivity available this summer.
In both the Princeton and GW cases, correct information was readily available on the universities’ web site. In the case of Cornell, there was no statement because there actually was no issue. The fact that there has been massive misinformation on the subject reflects the sorry fact that traditional media reporters and bloggers alike are far too ready to repeat each other without doing some basic reporting.