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Rumor Mill Churns Out Cheap Tablets

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Crediting a vague cadre of "industry sources," the DigiTimes screamed in a headline that Google (GOOG - Get Report) was going to come forth with a dirt-cheap tablet device, roiling the entire tablet market: "Google 7-inch tablet PCs to bring price-cut pressure on other vendors."

Hear that, Apple (AAPL)? Shaking in your shoes yet?

Nevermind the speculative nature of the article. Many in the media -- including The New York Post -- took the anonymously sourced rumor on absolute faith. Worse, they were off to the extrapolative races: "Google's $150 handheld device could trigger tablet war," the Post blared in its headline.

And when it comes to the media, of course, why stop at one rumor? Rumor begets rumor. Not only is Google coming out with a small tablet, said The Daily Mail, but "Apple is rumored to be working on an 'iPad Mini' with a similar form factor, according to analyst reports, which could appear in the third quarter this year."

Who knows -- all of this might even be true. But it's always nice when rumor and speculation comes with a warning label. That's what Android and Me did with a headline that, appropriately, waved a warning flag: "Rumor: Nexus tablet is a 'done deal,' to retail for as low as $149."

Got that? It's still a rumor. Beware, by the way, of mainstream media outlets trafficking in rumors with a clever bit of journalistic tush covering. Take this Barron's headline:

"Google Teams with Asus for Cheapie Tablet, Says DigiTimes."

That "says DigiTimes," is a verbal distancing mechanism. Once they ascribe the rumor to an outside force, -- well, then all bets are off. They have no responsibility, but can draw conclusions until their heart is content (and traders detriment). If they're wrong, they never said it in the first place. DigitTimes did.

This rumor about a tiny, cheap Google tablet might be true. But until you know for certain, use the good sense the media does not.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.

For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Fuchs appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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