by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
newspapers, old news, permanent record

new york times

Now That NY Times Archive Is Online... People Wish They Could Forget The Past

from the so-what-do-you-do? dept

It's interesting to hear that the New York Times gets approximately one request a day to delete an old article, because we get those requests at Techdirt as well (though, not nearly as often). In both cases, it's often due to someone who is upset that, even if the old article was accurate at the time, it's no longer the case any more -- but Google still calls it up on searches. Clark Hoyt, the current Public Editor of the NY Times discusses the struggle the paper has about what to do in those circumstances. Traditionally, they've just said "sorry, we can't do anything" to people. Now there are cases where they may add a correction or an additional note on incorrect information. There's even a bizarre (and somewhat silly) suggestion that they should have their archives simply "forget" certain "less important" news.

However, what may be most odd is that the article does not include one of the most obvious way to deal with these issues: post a response from the person who feels wronged, to give their side. When people complain about old posts on Techdirt, assuming they're factually accurate, we simply suggest that people put up a comment on the post explaining their side of the story. Of course, this response is quite similar to the new Google News comment feature that so many journalists seem up in arms about -- fearing that it will simply be used for spin, PR and distortion. What they forget is that if such comments are clearly marked as coming from the biased party, people can take that into account, and it provides the additional info necessary for people to make a more informed decision. The NY Times piece also leaves out a second option: that the person can get themselves in the news again, and have the old stories disappear into the dark caverns of Google's later page search results. In fact, that technique may be working for Allen Kraus, one of the guys used as an example in the NY Times piece. Thanks to this new NY Times piece, many of the links on Google appearing under his name are already about this particular story, rather than the old one he's upset about.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    GoblinJuice, Aug 27th, 2007 @ 3:35pm

    "Forget", eh? I call Memory Hole! =D

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    slick, Aug 27th, 2007 @ 4:27pm

    Should be careful,

    This might set off Mecca Barbra Streisand.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Matt Bennett, Aug 27th, 2007 @ 4:32pm

    I admit, I always find it odd when google pulls up really old info preferentially, sometimes ahead of newer stuff. I think either google should work harder to account for the age of a webpage in rankings, should time stamp them, or the newspapers themselves shopuld make it more glaringly obvious when old info is pulled.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    McGregor the goat fu*ker, Aug 27th, 2007 @ 4:43pm

    Yeah, the joke is old, but at least someone will be able to go read up on McGregor the bridge builder and McGregor the Church builder too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    toivo, Aug 27th, 2007 @ 10:17pm

    well, many poeple just dont read comments (at all)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    davidwr, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 4:06am

    Add a standard disclaimer

    Add a standard disclaimer with "This archived article you are reading was accurate at the time of publication. It may or may no longer be accurate."

    If the article was not accurate at the time of publication and has been corrected, use this: "This archived article has been corrected from its original version. The version you are reading was accurate at the time of publication. It may or may no longer be accurate. *Click here* for previous versions."

    Previous versions, which have been officially corrected, should have a large warning at the very top saying the article contains inaccuracies and should not be relied upon, but that it is made available in the interest of not hiding the publisher's mistakes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    ea, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 5:28am

    ny times and google

    if the information was inaccurate at the time, archives should accept and publish (as part of the article hit) a "letter to the archives" that corrects the record.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Tish Grier, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 6:18am

    Google News = paper of record?

    Could Google News comments feature be a way for it to usurp the title of "paper of record"? It tried to do that with the whole Google News search thing a little over a year ago (remember? they planned to archive about 200 years worth of news)

    What newspapers could do--but would obviously cost money--would be to post updates at the top of articles with links to follow-up stories. So, anyone coming into an archived story could see that the story they came in on was either incomplete or simply that there's more to it than the original report (the case with most stories)

    The simple fact that Google doesn't always pick up the most recent information on a person (or for a blog's links, for that matter)is a bit of evidence that for all its automation, Google is hardly perfect.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Art Kavanagh, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 11:31pm

    Search engine optimization

    According to the piece, the Times is using "search engine optimization [which] pushes Times content to or near the top of search results, regardless of its importance". Clearly there's a price to be paid for that. Part of the price is the danger of making some readers angry.

    I'm a bit puzzled by the suggestion in some of the comments that search engines ideally should produce the most recent information first. Surely, the aim is to give a higher place to the information that the searcher is likely to be looking for, regardless of whether it's recent or not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    mayes, May 12th, 2009 @ 10:04pm


    ya dear, how could i forget my past cause i could not understand they how can i overcome this problem , do you ant idea then provide cause i need it, please mayes real estate

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    mayes, May 12th, 2009 @ 10:08pm


    thanks dear , please provide me some details cause i am puzzle , please dear mayes real estate

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Brian, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 4:27pm


    Starting or have a small business? and want more customers? check out http://adwido.com a free site for uploading video ads for your business, they also have image uploads and a free link exchange as well. Web optimization is a must, don't get left behind, The more sites you can link to the greater your market will be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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