Reporters sacrifice one of their own to Steve Jobs"Blame Duncan Riley," opens a Fortune report on this week's awesome saga in which an ex-TechCrunch employee unwittingly manipulated Apple's stock price. But it's not over until we bury the bodies. Here's the 100-word recap:Duncan Riley, former TechCrunch blogger, claimed last week to have insider info from a tipster who had seen new Apple price sheets. Laptops started at $800 instead of $1,099, said the tipster. Analysts - if you believe them - think a sub-$1,000 MacBook would be a big change for Apple. Riley's rumor bubbled up from his own site to VentureBeat to the New York Times' new online Technology page, where news from VentureBeat and other tech sites is merged onscreen with the Times' original reporting. Some readers who didn't bother to unpack their trust issues took the headline (note the grammar error: "a $800 MacBook") as Times-grade truth. I don't blame them. The NYT accurately broke the story on Apple's $499 Mac a day before Steve Jobs unveiled it. The only thing I remember from newswriting class is that journalists are telling stories, even when they think they're reporting the truth. Riley told a good story, peppered with enough details to make it plausible. Web surfers crazy for stock market guidance swallowed the tale without stopping to chew. Now that we all know there's no $800 laptop, journalists will pat themselves on the back about some important lesson they've learned. I'll do it myself, right after I stop by Daring Fireball to watch Duncan Riley's ritual spanking.