Tech reporters took a bite of a tainted Apple iPad mini rumor — and were also forced to eat some humble pie.
Speculation swirled this week that Apple would send out invitations on Wednesday for a product launch event, widely rumored to be the announcement of a smaller version of the iPad.
"I have to take the fall for passing along the rumor — apparently false — that invitations were set to go out on Oct. 10 for an iPad mini unveiling on Oct. 17," Fortune's Philip Elmer-Dewitt, the editor of its Apple 2.0 section, wrote Wednesday afternoon. "I was wrong to pass the tip along. I don't know what I was doing in the rumor business in the first please. Mea culpa."
He said the last three invites he received from Apple Special Events arrived in his inbox "before 12:01 p.m. Eastern."
Macworld reporter Chris Brennan poked fun at the rumor-mongering in a tweet at 12:08 p.m. EDT.
"BREAKING imaginary iPad mini event invite late, iPad mini DELAYED," he wrote. "Imaginary apology from Tim Cook expected. More at Unicorn o'clock."
Apple's policy of remaining extraordinarily tight-lipped about product releases and other news has made it a prime target of speculative journalists, all eager to offer the latest scoop on a forthcoming device.
Websites from Macrumors.com to AppleInsider, which bills itself as a hub for news — and rumors — are devoted to spreading unverified chatter about the company's latest news.
And while passing along the unconfirmed information may embarrass some of those who report it, Marc Cooper an assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism said it's all part of a nationwide guessing game.
"I don't think people are going to react very negatively to it because it's become a sort-of national participatory and spectator event at the same time," Cooper told TheWrap. "And Apple has so deftly managed the release of their information and keeps it very, very secret."
He said the rumor mill works in the favor of both Apple and the journalists — Apple gets undue product publicity and the reporters get precious web traffic from writing stories with a popular search term.
"The fact that the media got this one wrong — that's another free media bump for Apple," Cooper said.