How to Look Foolish in Just One Word

Details matter.

Outrageous fortune recently decreed that I was going to have to get my dose of morning background news from the web, rather than a TV.  No worries, I pointed the browser at CNN’s website, clicked on “Video”, then “Now in the News” to get a loop of recent stories.  Then, the most important step: I went to make coffee.

When I came back to enjoy my first cup (of many) of life-juice, I was seeing the pre-ad for the next segment.  Glancing at the text description made me curious to hear the story: “Hidden ATM danger: Next time you get cash from an ATM, beware of a new scam thieves are using to steal your money. Clark Howard has more.”  I’m a tech junkie and hey, I use ATM’s, so I was genuinely curious, even eager.

Intro to Clark Howard piece on NEW danger

Intro to Clark Howard piece on new danger

Perhaps this Clark Howard person was going to show me something new and fascinating!  Perhaps I would become a devoted viewer of his new show and a buyer of his obligatory tie-in books!  Perhaps he would save me from some doom I knew not of!

Nope.  Mr. Howard was going to do a piece on ATM skimming.

I first heard about ATM skimming over a year ago. (a resource I wish more people would consult — before forwarding me dire warnings of spiders hiding beneath toilet seats) mentions that the technique showed up in U.S. newspapers in 2003.  But perhaps Mr. Howard doesn’t know about Snopes.  Does he keep up with the work of his CNN colleagues?  Deborah Feyerick mentioned skimmers in her piece on ATM theft back in July; and Dan Lothian seems to have talked about them in 2005 (though I can’t get any actual video on that one, the description reads “Police in Boston and New Jersey are finally catching up with thieves who use skimming devices and fake ATMs to steal card numbers and PINs.”)

This is probably not Mr. Howard’s fault.  For one thing, he’s a “consumer news guy”, not a “tech news guy”.  For another, he never actually says in the video that this is a “new” development.  Finally, in his defense, it is a fairly strong piece for those who haven’t heard about the phenomenon before.  My mother, for example, found it riveting and has vowed never to use her ATM card again.  This in addition to tearing off the subscription address labels before recycling her magazines, so the identity bandits won’t get her.  And always checking under toilet seats for lethal spiders.

I’m sure that whoever actually posts the clips to CNN’s website and catalogues them just added the word “new” to make the clip sexier.

But if you are going to present yourself as being an expert, particularly in the world of tech, you cannot afford to give the impression that you don’t actually know what’s new and what’s not.

David Pogue‘s place in my heart remains secure.  I won’t be watching Clark Howard’s new show, or reading his blog, or buying his books.  Details matter.


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