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In Race to Be First on Tumblr Acquisition by Yahoo, Wall Street Journal Publishes Questionable Headline

Update, Sunday May 19, 2013 @ 6:21pm: Some readers mentioned that they thought they’d read somewhere that Tumblr’s board had already approved the sale, but with hundreds of Tumblr news stories over the past few days we were struggling to track down a link where that was actually published. Now we have that post. Jeff Bercovici wrote at Forbes yesterday that he independently confirmed “Tumblr’s board, which includes representatives from Union Square Ventures, Spark Capital and Sequoia Capital, has already voted to approve Yahoo’s offer.”

The Wall Street Journal headline this morning reads href=”http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324787004578493130789235150.html”>”Yahoo to Buy Tumblr for $1.1 Billion”, but last I checked the purchase of a company requires the consent of both sides. The same story reads:

“It wasn’t immediately clear whether Tumblr’s board had also approved the deal.”

I realize that it is highly likely at this point that Tumblr intended to do this deal (and readers point out they probably already have a letter of intent to be sold), but how can publishing this headline be considered legit without confirmation from a source? Couldn’t this even have a material impact on $YHOO stock price in the morning? Reporting the deal as fact when it is unconfirmed seems wrong… but now even the New Yorks Times is running with the story, so it must be true right?

I’ll take this to mean they have sources speaking on background but can’t confirm anything. AllThingsD is widely known to always have the inside scoop on what’s going on at Yahoo

Why This Matters

The biggest issue here is that WSJ is a massively reputable news source, and this headline has lead to lazy journalism on the part of many other outlets who appear to have mostly copy/pasted the existing story and conveniently missed the part where Tumblr hasn’t confirmed. The public who aren’t watching closely will simply take these headlines at face value, after all they’re busy and this is all entertainment anyway so who cares if we bend the truth right?

Geekwire changed their headline to “buying”, but this tweet captures the original headline: