Do not dismiss that story about Apple's second lost iPhone

UPDATED: Those contending it was a publicity stunt or hoax are rushing to judgment

iphone 4

(Important updates below.)

Yesterday's murmurings that the report of a second lost iPhone prototype was actually an Apple publicity stunt have today turned into a full-throated dismissal of the story that CNET trumpeted as an exclusive. Those dismissals are based primarily on the fact that the San Francisco police have not confirmed that it happened.

I believe that it did.

This morning I spoke with CNET reporter Greg Sandoval, who authored the story along with his colleague Declan McCullagh. "The story is correct," Sandoval insists. "We stand behind it."

That's all he could tell me on the record. He cannot reveal his source. However, based on the totality of our conversation and my 35 years of experience in journalism, it is my opinion that the story is correct and that those cackling about CNET having been had will eventually dine on crow. (I mean the foundation of the story is correct, not necessarily every detail.)

If I'm wrong - and I do not discount that possibility -- it won't be the first time ... and I'll be the one doing the munching.

My post yesterday explained why I do not believe that Apple planted the story as a publicity stunt. Nothing whatsoever has shaken my confidence in that position. Should it be proven false, pass me a pigeon, too.

However, to the best of my knowledge, Apple has not denied the CNET story. Why not? It makes the company look bad - foolishly bad -- on a number of fronts; saying "it never happened" would be easy and prudent. Unless it did happen, in which case denying it would eventually make an embarrassing episode a lot worse.

CNET's Sandoval did not sound like a reporter who has even the slightest doubt about the veracity of his story, which was based on a single unnamed source.

If the story is true, further corroboration is out there and will be forthcoming.

If it's not true, could someone please send me a good recipe for crow?

(Update, 6 p.m.: Oh, this happened, all right. SF Weekly has interviewed a San Francisco man who says six individuals claiming to be police officers searched his home, car and computer for a phone in July. One of the six gave the guy a phone number that turns out to belong to -- and was answered by -- a senior security investigator who told SF Weekly that he works for Apple. CNET has a follow-up story here, as well as what looks right now like complete vindication. Apple has what looks like an ugly legal and public relations problem on its hands.)

(Update, 2, Saturday: Police change their story.) 

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