The Continuing Question Of Corrections And Changes To Newspaper Online Archives

from the this-again? dept

It must be summer time… It seems that every summer, the Online Journalism Review runs a piece exploring the question of how newspapers handle the issue of corrections and changes with articles that appear in online archives. Two years ago, they explored whether or not newspapers should ever correct stories after they’re written — challenging the belief that what was written down on paper was untouchable, and all corrections should be in a separate corrections section that no one would ever read. Last year they explored the idea in more detail, with a number of newspapers worried that changes would be seen as “fiddling with the truth.” The latest version takes a slightly different look at the issue, looking at how newspapers deal with slightly more complex issues, such as articles that are controversial or that raise serious complaints. The article notes a few different anecdotes, related to very different situations. In one case, the newspaper was afraid that the article would create more problems in certain communities, but eventually decided to publish the story late. In another, it’s unclear exactly what happened, but the story was about an upstart competitor to the newspaper, and most people believe the publisher pulled the story, because he didn’t want the competitor to have publicity (a very weak reason, if true). The last one was a case where the story had serious problems and received a ton of complaints. The paper removed it, and pointed to a different piece that was apparently much better. However, in all three cases, one thing becomes clear pretty quickly: the whole concept of trying to “hide” stuff from an online community doesn’t work. Once it’s online, it’s there — and trying to hide it tends to only get more attention. It seems that the straightforward note or explanation at the top for any changes and issues would make the most sense, rather than trying (and failing) to erase what was written.

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