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Online News Stories that Change Behind Your Back

Roblimo posted more than 12 years ago | from the who-controls-the-present-controls-the-past dept.

The Media 309

Major news Web sites routinely rewrite stories after they are published, sometimes so heavily that they only bear a glancing resemblance to what was posted earlier. This CNN/Money article about the penalty phase of the Microsoft trial is a prime example. What you see at the other end of the link is quite different from the story that first appeared at that URL. Even the headline and byline have changed. But CNN/Money managing editor Allen Wastler says there is nothing wrong with this practice, even though there is no indication on the site that the article was heavily modified after it first appeared.To see how radically this story was changed after Slashdot linked to it, check this snapshot of the original, provided by Slashdot reader John Harrold.

The second iteration was more favorable -- or at least less unfavorable -- to Microsoft than the original, but Wastler denies any Microsoft involvement in the change. "Advertisers do not interfere with our content," he says, and notes that neither he nor any other CNN/Money editors were contacted by Microsoft about this story. He does say, though, that the later version was "more balanced" than the earlier one.

In my experience, Microsoft PR people are not capable of reacting to anything as quickly as this story changed, so the chance of a conspiracy here is about zero. As for Wastler's "more balanced" comment, that is his judgement, and you are free to agree or disagree with it. (I'm sure some Slashdot readers will say he is correct, and others will say he is not. Editorial decisions never please everyone.)

"Writethroughs" are Routine in Online News

In the news business, stories that change after the originals run are called "writethroughs." This practice originated with wire services like UPI, AP, and Reuters, who might send subscribing editors a story with the headline, "Office building on fire in downtown Cleveland," followed by one or two paragraphs of copy, with progressively longer versions of the same story coming through the wire, hour by hour, as reporters on the scene gather more information.

Wastler says CNN/Money readers look at his site "like a wire service" and expect stories to change over the course of a day. As an example, during our phone conversation he pointed me to a recently posted CNN/Money story with the headline, U.S. productivity soars, and noted that this story might be updated and expanded several times, so that "by the end of the day, it might become a magazine length feature."

Online News Association President Bruce Koon says, via email, "Writethroughs are very common nowadays among news sites, from MSNBC to CBSMarketWatch to CNN. Pretty standard practice nowadays to freshen headlines and leads as new developments occur. Some sites have labels such as 'update' or 'breaking news' but it varies. For top stories, I don't see that kind of labeling." In his day job, Koon is Executive News Editor for Knight Ridder Digital, so he ought to know.

I was not aware that this practice was routine in the online news business until a few days ago. Old-style wire service writethroughs were as specific as a rigorously kept programmer's changelog, right down to paragraph and line number. Maybe I'm naive, but if I am going to trust a news source, I expect that same level of care in story updates, or at least something like News.com's corrections page, which lets readers know what changes, if any, have been made to published stories before they are archived.

What's the Difference Between an Update and a Correction?

I doubt that most news site readers know the story they are seeing at the moment they read it is not necessarily the same as the story that was published earlier at the same URL -- unless we tell them. We run the risk of getting into the habit of "getting it first" at the expense of "getting it right" if we start thinking, "Well, we can fix it later, so let's go with what we have now even if it's not confirmed as carefully as we'd really like."

This is not the same as running a story that begins by saying something like, "An unconfirmed statement by...," followed by a later story that either confirms or denies the original statement, and it is not the same as an Update notice added to the original story when it is expanded or corrected. At CNN/Money, when a story is updated it gets a fresh time/date stamp, and Wastler says that's plenty. The problem with this is that someone reading the latest version who didn't see the previous one has no way to know that an earlier -- possibly incorrect -- version ever existed.

Columbia University journalism professor Sreenath Sreenivasan (AKA Sree) says, "You really need to make it clear to your readers if your stories have been changed or updated." He makes his students do that on Columbia's Web sites, even though some of them complain that commercial news sites, where many of them hope to work after graduation, wouldn't necessarily make them take this extra step.

Sree feels strongly that if a Web site changes a news story, for whatever reason, it should put, "'last updated at' or something like that" along with the original publication time and date.

More Analysis of the CNN/Money Story Example

Andrew Nachison, of the American Press Institute's Media Center, took a close look at our original CNN/Money example and gave us this analysis:

The Microsoft trial story on CNN looks like a typical write-thru of an earlier story, with new information from afternoon events. The morning's top news, that a Microsoft witness had trouble answering some questions, got bumped lower in the story as other witnesses testified later in the day. On its face, no big deal.

However, CNN did a disservice to its audience - especially the audience paying close attention to that particular story - by failing to explain the changes. A brief note would have helped, or a link to a journal of update notes for the story, so users - like newspaper wire editors - could, in a glance, understand how the story had changed from previous versions.

Something else would have helped CNN's audience: if CNN had an obvious, standard policy for publishing update notes that the audience expected and was used to.

What's most remarkable to me is that we're well into the digital publishing era but most digital news providers have yet to develop clear standards for how to handle updates and notes about updates so users are better informed. Publishers need to do this for two reasons: first, to better serve their audiences (which should translate into credibility with the audience) and second, to promote expectations and standards that audiences can come to expect of all credible news providers.

Errors that require corrections add a whole different level of challenge to digital publishing. Today it's virtually impossible to erase a mistake once it's published online. Web browsers call up cached versions stored on hard drives, some sites intentionally archive Web sites for historical research, and Internet service providers like AOL cache popular pages to speed service to customers. So AOL customers may hit a cached version of a story that contains errors corrected in a subsequent version that has yet to be cached by the AOL servers.

If online news publishers truly have their audience's best interests in mind then they should go out of their way to alert the audience to corrections and to make it clear when an update corrects previously published errors. They need to set the record straight.

University of Florida journalism professor Mindy McAdams has also looked at our example story. She says:

Updating the story in real time without noting that it has been changed: That's okay by me, in principle. But in this case, it's really very different.

I would be inclined to believe the Money.CNN folks who told you it's no big deal -- for them. In other words, I do NOT believe it's sneaky or anything like that.

But for the rest of the world (non-journalists), this MUST be very confusing!

I asked Wastler if CNN/Money had ever thought about archiving older story versions as new ones appeared, and linking from the new versions to the older, archived ones. He said, "The name of the game is speed, getting [stories] up on the site." He talked of the sheer number of stories a site like his publishes daily, and how loading any more work on his editorial staff, like moving old story versions to an archive, "would bog things down." I pointed out that this was something a simple script could do with a single "replace story/move old story to archive" click from an editor, and his reply was, "Well, I am not as technical as you... I don't know about that."

(This was not a hostile conversation. Wastler reads Slashdot now and then and likes it, and says, "My tech guys love Slashdot." Perhaps one of you Slashdot-reading CNN tech guys could talk to Wastler and other CNN editors about automatic story versioning. Wastler said that because of syndication deals and inbound links, his main concern was keeping a stable URL for each story even if went through a series of updates. This should not be hard to arrange.)

Future Directions for Online News

In a followup email, Bruce Koon said the idea of constant story updates on the Internet should not surprise anyone. His exact words:

How is the model different from TV or radio broadcast news? As news gets reported as it's happening, facts are going to change, new developments are happening. If anything, we've been trying to get newspapers away from this notion that they print once. The Internet is about continuous updates and reporting.

Also, unlike Slashdot or other new forms of information gathering and reporting, news audiences only go to a news site a few times a day to read what the latest news is. Most seem to know that the version of the story they're reading now is different from what they read before, just as they know the top of the hour report on the radio news may be different from what they heard two hours earlier.

Based on Koon's statement, the long term question seems to be whether Internet news evolution should be based on a broadcast model, with broadcast-style immediacy as its most important goal, or whether it should be based on a print model that assumes we are writing the "first rough draft of history" so that what we say today has archival significance tomorrow.

I think the two patterns are going to coexist, and rather than "convergence" we are going to see a gradual divergence between the two as "Internet news" simply becomes "news" instead of being seen as different or separate from other media. Watching how readers (viewers?) react to this change (assuming they notice it at all) over the next decade or so is going to be interesting.

A big part of the change is going to be figuring out how to maintain audience trust when it is so easy to digitally morph stories, pictures and almost anything else into states that are far different from their original ones. As Nachison points out, despite the apparently transitory nature of online news, nothing on the Internet ever quite goes away. It is all archived or cached somewhere once it gets into digital form, whether it was originally prepared for delivery on the Internet, on printed pages or for cable or over-the-air broadcast.

Professor Sreenivasan says, "We're all in the early days of this business. We need to evolve standards."

That we do. But is the "we" who evolves standards going to be the people who read (or view) the news or is "we" going to be the people who produce it? And that leads to another question: Where will we draw the line between reporters and readers/viewers, or will we even bother to differentiate between them, when PDAs with broadband wireless connections and built-in digital video cameras become common, everyday consumer items?

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HOW TO POOP AT WORK (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490247)

We've all been there but don't like to admit it. We've all kicked back in our cubicles and suddenly felt something brew down below. As much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, the WORK POOP is inevitable. For those who hate pooping at work, following is the 2001 Survival Guide for taking a dump at work. Memorize these definitions and pooping at work will become a pure pleasure.

ESCAPEE.
Definition: a fart that slips out while taking a leak at the urinal or forcing a poop in a stall. This is usually accompanied by a sudden wave of panic embarrassment. This is similar to the hot flash you receive when passing an unseen police car and speeding. If you release an escapee, do not acknowledge it. Pretend it did not happen. If you are standing next to the farter in the urinal, pretend you did not hear it. No one likes an escapee, it is uncomfortable for all involved. Making a joke or laughing makes both parties feel uneasy.

JAILBREAK (Used in conjunction with ESCAPEE).
Definition: When forcing poop, several farts slip out at a machine gun pace. This is usually a side effect of diarrhea or a hangover. If this should happen, do not panic. Remain in the stall until everyone has left the bathroom so to spare everyone the awkwardness of what just occurred.

COURTESY FLUSH.
Definition: The act of flushing the toilet the instant the nose cone of the poop log hits the water and the poop is whisked away to an undisclosed location. This reduces the amount of air time the poop has to stink up the bathroom. This can help you avoid being caught doing the WALK OF SHAME.

WALK OF SHAME.
Definition: Walking from the stall, to the sink, to the door after you have just stunk up the bathroom. This can be a very uncomfortable moment if someone walks in and busts you. As with all farts, it is best to pretend that the smell does not exist. Can be avoided with the use of the COURTESY FLUSH.

OUT OF THE CLOSET POOPER.
Definition: A colleague who poops at work and damn proud of it. You will often see an Out Of The Closet Pooper enter the bathroom with a newspaper or magazine under their arm. Always look around the office for the Out Of The Closet Pooper before entering the bathroom.

THE POOPING FRIENDS NETWORK (PFN).
Definition: A group of coworkers who band together to ensure emergency pooping goes off without incident. This group can help you to monitor the whereabouts of Out Of The Closet Poopers, and identify SAFE HAVENS.

SAFE HAVENS.
Definition: A seldom used bathroom somewhere in the building where you can least expect visitors. Try floors that are predominantly of the opposite sex. This will reduce the odds of a pooper of your sex entering the bathroom.

TURD BURGLAR:
Definition: A pooper who does not realize that you are in the stall and tries to force the door open. This is one of the most shocking and vulnerable moments that can occur when taking a dump at work. If this occurs, remain in the stall until the Turd Burglar leaves. This way you will avoid all uncomfortable eye contact.

CAMO-COUGH.
Definition: A phony cough that alerts all new entrants into the bathroom that you are in a stall. This can be used to cover-up a WATERMELON, or to alert potential Turd Burglars. Very effective when used in conjunction with an ASTAIRE.

ASTAIRE.
Definition: A subtle toe-tap that is used to alert potential Turd Burglars that you are occupying a stall. This will remove all doubt that the stall is occupied. If you hear an Astaire, leave the bathroom immediately so the pooper can poop in peace.

WATERMELON.
Definition: A turd that creates a loud splash when hitting the toilet water. This is also an embarrassing incident. If you feel a Watermelon coming on, create a diversion. See CAMO-COUGH.

HAVANA OMELET.
Definition: A load of diarrhea that creates a series of loud splashes in the toilet water. Often accompanied by an Escapee. Try using a Camo-Cough with an Astaire.

UNCLE TED.
Definition: A bathroom user who seems to linger around forever. Could spend extended lengths of time in front of the mirror or sitting on the pot. An Uncle Ted makes it difficult to relax while on the crapper, as you should always wait to drop your load when the bathroom is empty. This benefits you as well as the other bathroom attendees.

FLY BY.
Definition: The act of scouting out a bathroom before pooping. Walk in and check for other poopers. If there are others in the bathroom, leave and come back again. Be careful not to become a FREQUENT FLYER. People may become suspicious if they catch you constantly going into the bathroom.

Re:HOW TO POOP AT WORK (-1)

CofWheat (464490) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490540)

Mod this up you bastards...this is sheer genius...I actullay learned many good technigues about how to properly release the choclate prisoner at work!

It changed, huh? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490251)

Do you mean like this:

404 File Not Found
The requested URL (features/02/05/08/1924240.shtml?tid=149) was not found.

If you feel like it, mail the url, and where ya came from to pater@slashdot.org.

Re:It changed, huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490471)

Not that I'm, *ahem*, calling anyone on this, but I seem to recall a certain update line [slashdot.org] changing quickly enough that I got a sort of 'frankenupdate' built out of the sentences of three seperate 'removing foot from mouth' updates.

I'm guessing someone wishes April 1st would have happened at exactly the same time everywhere this year.:)

Olle Bolle Snop Snyf?!!? (-1, Offtopic)

medievia_troll (578465) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490254)

Bolle Grylle Snop Snyf?!!?

Bolle Grylle Snop Snyf?!!?
Bolle Grylle Snop Snyf?!!?
Bolle Grylle Snop Snyf?!!?

"""""""""x"xxxxx
"""""""""x"xxxxx
""""""""@""x xxxx
"""""""x"x"xxxxx
"""""""""xxxxxxx

To the west by southwest, several miles away, you smell a wicked stench
rising from a hole in the ground.

You pass through a swirling cloud of vapor.

A baenlyr bites you.
You feel burning poison in your blood and suffer.

Thou must find the Jade monkey before the next full moon in order to
cast that spell.

YOu chant out the arcane words and are drained of 50 mana.
A bright aura envelops your body, healing your wounds.

NOTICE: You are leaving a PLAYER KILLLING AREA.

This is not a newspaper (1, Interesting)

fluor2 (242824) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490256)

Well the net is not a newspaper. And should not be compared to it. The news that is proven incorrect should be changed. The only question I ask is "Can we sue the news if they contain news that is proven incorrect?"

Re:This is not a newspaper (2, Insightful)

thaigan (197773) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490290)

I don't think that news that is proven incorrect should just be changed. If it's news that's being reported, I think it should stay as is, but with corrections added. Authors should at least note that the original story has been modified.

Re:This is not a newspaper (4, Interesting)

Kindaian (577374) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490424)

The net isn't a newspaper, but on the other hand, that site claims (C) for it's news bits. That means that they are obliged by the law to provide to the public domain the article (ok... after 25 years). Failure to do that means that the article isn't copyrighted at all. Where is the archive of the older version?

Re:This is not a newspaper (1, Offtopic)

UTRules (134670) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490592)

Except when it is [nytimes.com] . The NYT does this all the time, very often with a significant tone change between revisions. I first noticed this during the coverage of the Presidential debates.

How hard would it be for these web sites to hold on to the old versions of the articles and have the front-page URL redirect visitors to whatever version is the "current" version? That way you could bookmark a version and have it stay _that_ version. When new versions of the article become available they could be added as links at the bottom of the older pages. I think this might be less work than explaining what's changed between versions because you don't have to mess with any actual content, it could be completely automated.

the "read more" link on the front page doesnt work (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490258)

and I got a first post. w00.

Sometimes, I think we need a primer (1)

Software (179033) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490264)

on Newspeak. Plus maybe some nice two-way televisions, and we're all set.

Well... (3, Insightful)

JimPooley (150814) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490265)

And this, kiddies, is why traditional media is best. You can't go back and change yesterday's newspapers.

Re:Well... (1)

MrFredBloggs (529276) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490292)

though its sometimes amusing to compare the first and final editions of a paper.

Re:Well... (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490300)

But you can (kind of). Newspapers are frequently, often extensively, revised, between first and subsequent/final print runs, and not always just to include more recent developments.

Re:Well... (2)

gambit3 (463693) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490372)

True... and I think for that reason, Weekly news magazines are the most realiable, since even newspapers have to deal with a daily headline, and often have to go to press with an incomplete story.

And, like you said, you can't change the magazine once it's out in print.

Orwell's 1984 (2, Interesting)

BACbKA (534028) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490410)

The ministry of truth did just that - changing yesterday newspapers based on what the today's party official line was.

And Orwell didn't invent this himself - this is precisely what the Soviet system did back in the days of Stalin. Whenever yet another party big shot "turned out to be the Soviet people enemy", i.e. convicted in yet another truth-mocking trial, he was carefully removed from all the old newspapers, books and especially school textbooks. It's amazing to think just how much images with Trotsky were edited in that manner...

Re:Orwell's 1984 (5, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490498)

And Orwell didn't invent this himself - this is precisely what the Soviet system did back in the days of Stalin.
Actually, the Ministry Of Truth was based almost entirely on his experiences working for the BBC during the WWII, where news was frequently changed for propaganda purposes. Even the BBC acknowledge this. [bbc.co.uk]

the only past is the past we tell you (4, Insightful)

Vodak (119225) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490271)

story changing constantly without making note of it... sounds hella like 1984 to me.

Re:the only past is the past we tell you (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490396)

holy shit man. this is only modded at 2? you moderators need to wake up!!

Re:the only past is the past we tell you (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490504)

No, we've always been at war with Afghanistan. Wait, I mean Iraq.

Hello readers. (-1)

Rob Malda (editor) (569938) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490275)

So when do you think this madness will end?
I for one have had enough! Time for us to start protesting with our wallets as well as our mouths!

eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490281)

Didn't you guys do the same thing with the James Doohan coma story?

Re:eh? (2, Insightful)

Dante_H (537218) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490417)

Didn't you guys do the same thing with the James Doohan coma story?

If you look at the story that's still there :

ThreeHamsWillKillHim writes "Apparently, it's rumored that actor James Doohan, from Star Trek fame, is in a coma." The article notes that he's not likely to come out of it. James Doohan is 82 and is known best for his role as Engineer Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott on Star Trek.

Basically, the record of Slashdot's original comment is still there. They did however change the headline - which I presume was to stop thousands of people posting "No he's not." or "Oh my god!" unnecessarily. The line isn't exactly blurred in these matters : You have to keep a record that you were originally wrong, and then add an update. Changing the headline can be interpreted as dubious though, although in the case it's just confusing as the headline is contradicted by the story, and then the story is contradicted by the update. Personally I think the change of headline should be noted along with the update.

I dislike most new sources for this reason. (2, Troll)

danheskett (178529) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490282)

I would recommend people stay away from main news sources, especially ones based on the AOL-TW or MS/NBC megaliths.

Because AOL is Evil [danheskett.com]

But seriously, CNN/MS*.* are unreliable news sources that cannot be trusted.

So what *are* the best online news sources? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490389)

I'm curious to find out what other Slashdotters think are the best (conventional) news sites online?

I'm not sure it's even possible to find a balanced and non-biased news site anymore (most seem to be owned by mega-corps, or at least get their news feed from one that is), but which are the best of the worst so to speak?

Re:I dislike most new sources for this reason. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490425)

And you come to Slashdot for your reliable news?

Not all news services... (3, Informative)

PoiBoy (525770) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490284)

If you subscribe to news wires such as Bloomberg, Reuters, Dow Jones, AP, etc. if a story is revised the title usually indicates that, and the first few paragraphs of the article mention what was changed from previous versions.

As far as websites, if you read, for example, the business news feeds on finance.yahoo.com you will see exactly the same thing.

I guess it's more just a matter of convenience for consumer-oriented websites to ignore the details.

1984 reference yet again (5, Interesting)

SealBeater (143912) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490287)

Same thing happened in Orwell's 1984. Say what you want, mod me as you like,
but that was one of the central ideas of the book, news articles, etc, being
changed after the fact. If you went back and did any research, you would find
that the news agency/authority in charge of information was always right.
In more mundane terms, you really have to wonder about a news agency that
changes it's story and doesn't even post a retraction.

SealBeater

Re:1984 reference yet again (2)

Xenopax (238094) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490431)

That, IMO, was the scarist part of the book. The revision of history was one of the main causes of double-think, and double-think was the most powerful tool the gov't had in that book IMO.

Re:1984 reference yet again (2, Interesting)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490464)

interesting you say that. i saw this story and read it, mentioned it to a co-worker and that CNN was involved, and we quite interested. We (my research group) has a paper upcoming where we reference news articles, including one or two from CNN.com. Granted, the story is from 2000, and probably wont change given that similar articles appear elsewhere. Maybe we'll try to dig up a second reference.

Re:1984 reference yet again (2, Insightful)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490496)

There is a huge difference though.

In 1984, Big Brother made up his own 'truth' as convenient for the moment. If was was expedient to change it, then the 'truth' changed.

In news reporting, an initial story may have inaccuracies. One hopes that with each revision, the reported story becomes closer and closer to the actual truth. It is fairly unlikely that the original story is better than the revised one.

Most consumers of news aren't interested in older and less-accurate versions of a story. It's quicker and easier to read the most-accurate-so-far version than to read the initial version and then mentally overlay all the updates.

I guess the latter approach appeals more to geek-types because we tend to be more interested in the mechanics of things. Irrelevant details matter to geeks 8-)

Re:1984 reference yet again (1)

TRACK-YOUR-POSITION (553878) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490571)

Most consumers of news aren't interested in older and less-accurate versions of a story. It's quicker and easier to read the most-accurate-so-far version than to read the initial version and then mentally overlay all the updates.

But we are interested in the fact than an older and less accurate version existed in the first place. It does not give us that much more information about the news event itself, but about the reliability of the news agency. Not too mention if that if I tell someone about an event I read about, I don't want them thinking I'm insane when they look it up and the news agency claims they never reported that event.

maybe slashdot should do this (1, Interesting)

Pave Low (566880) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490291)

there have been countless stories that slashdot posted that are misleading, based on half-truth or are just outright false. Sometimes they update, sometimes they don't. It really seems to happen only when they feel like it.

So if they don't correct it, then readers have to read thru the comments so an astute comment can correct the "editor" incompetence.

Maybe slashdot should adopt the practice of updating the stories so it tells the truth. I see nothing wrong with news sites doing this. Better to get it right, than wrong.

Re:maybe slashdot should do this (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490358)

Flamebait???

I'll see you in METAMOD!!

Re:maybe slashdot should do this (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490520)

No way is this flamebait! The final point is a very valid and sensible one.

Isn't this the point? (1)

00_NOP (559413) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490304)

Forget this particular story, and what we might think of the Evil Empire, but isn't this ability to change quickly the point of online media?

If I read a story I don't want to see the inaccurate copy of yesterday, I want the up to date and full story.

Of course its wrong (2, Informative)

dalassa (204012) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490323)

Changning a story to give it a difference balance is if nothing else on the slightly scummy side.

If they want to add more information or change the view of the story than what they should do is:
1) Post a short summary while they still don't know all the facts.
2) On the same page, but clearly timestamped, the later facts or views.

This would allow news sites to keep their integrity and change their minds. Also, the internet is a fluid medium, the old rules of printing on paper don't apply. Dynamic stories probably take more effort but are in the end more satisfying.

At least I understand now why the offical citation for the internet includes the time downloaded to the closest second.

This is fairly amusing... (1, Insightful)

gamorck (151734) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490326)

Considering thats its being posted on a site that routinely engages in actions similar to these. I mean how many times have we caught the editors modding down hundreds of posts in single threads to -1 just because they were critical of the way things were down here at slashdot?

How many times have we seen articles mystically updated and changed here without any mention of the revision on the actual article? Now some of you may attempt to argue that slashdot isn't a real news site and isn't subject to the same standards as the likes of CNN and Foxnews - but I contend that this is not the case.

Slashdot provides "news" and information to hundreds of thousands of eager eyes on a daily basis. To deny this is to simply deny the effect that slashdot has on many members of the tech community. By default they are subject to the same standards no matter their origin. Taco can scream and whine all day about how this is "just his hobby" but as long as (a) hes getting paid for it and (b) society believes that people are responsible for their own actions - he is just as open for examination as everybody else.

Thanks for the laugh Roblimo - I guess you havent kept up with the slashdots frontpage lately huh? I mean they actually posted 6 Anti Microsoft stories in a SINGLE day on Monday. This is truly pathetic.

J

Re:This is fairly amusing... (2, Interesting)

bwhaley (410361) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490485)

I mean how many times have we caught the editors modding down hundreds of posts in single threads to -1 just because they were critical of the way things were down here at slashdot?
Really? I haven't seen this before. Have any links to specific articles?

How many times have we seen articles mystically updated and changed here without any mention of the revision on the actual article?
Everytime a slashdot article is updated by the editors there is a bold faced UPDATE notice with a timestamp next to it, such as in this article [slashdot.org] . It seems obvious to me that they are trying to inform readers when an article changes.

I mean they actually posted 6 Anti Microsoft stories in a SINGLE day on Monday.
What does that have to do with anything?

Personal attacks on the slashdot editors do you no good. You don't have to read it if you don't want to.

Re:This is fairly amusing... (2, Offtopic)

rixkix (205339) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490513)

This thread is one of the more memorable:
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=26 315&threshol d=-1&commentsort=0&tid=126&mode=nested&pid=2850660

Re:This is fairly amusing... (2, Insightful)

bwhaley (410361) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490557)

Yes that certainly is unacceptable. However, it was a discussion about slashdot itself, not a discussion on an article..

Re:This is fairly amusing... (1, Flamebait)

evilpenguin (18720) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490503)

Moderating on Slashdot is not done by the operators of Slashdot. It is done by readers who post. I've been reading /. for a number of years now, and, yes, it is full of uninformed loudmouths. Guess what? The world is full of uninformed loudmouths. Some of them even support Microsoft. As far as story content goes, I see "Update" prefixing changes to articles on /. all the time. I can't say they always do this (I don't watch them that closely), but I see labeled updates enough that it seems to me they are making a good faith effort. As for content linked though /. articles, well, they are linked though. /. doesn't control other people's web sites.

And what, exactly, is pathetic about posting 6 articles critical of Microsoft, unless some of them are demonstrably false. If they are, I would sure like to see you post the evidence, instead of simply being another loundmouth.

Re:This is fairly amusing... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490526)

you must have missed the whole post of doom outrage. it originated on hundreds of mod points the editors used on a single post becaues they didn't like it.

after a useless discussion with the editors, it resulted in one line added the faq. [slashdot.org]

if you really want to see the inner workings the slashdot staff will not reveal to you, you must visit here. [slashdot.org]

i fully expect this to be modded -1 because the editors do not want you to see the truth.

Re:This is fairly amusing... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490534)

My account has mod points today. I really wanted to mod this up, but I was afraid to do so out of fear of retaliation. In fact, after the "Troll Investigation" incident, I'm so afraid of retaliation against my account that I'm posting this from a different computer on a completely different subnet than the one I usually use.

The fact that I felt I had to do so to protect 'myself' really says something about how far down this site has gone.

Sensationalism (1, Offtopic)

Renraku (518261) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490327)

"MSN just posted a story saying that the U.S. is under nuclear attack! Check it out! " "Whoa, this story has convinced me to switch from 56k to DSL. It gave me 50 reasons." "You must be looking at the wrong link..Wait..you're right..50 reasons. Lets order DSL." "Alright."

all the FUDge that's fit to Pack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490328)

Enronomics 101: Business As Usual In The Disinformation Economy by David Moberg / InTheseTimes.com

"The sordid, still unfolding tale of Enron?s crash is a story with several themes: common greed that soared to uncommon dimensions; the failure and foiling of government regulation; duplicitous accountants, lawyers, bankers, executives and politicians on the corporate take. But it also makes a compelling argument that the new information economy should really be called the disinformation economy. In the disinformation economy, there is a systematic effort to hide, distort and lie as a way of gaining wealth and power. In itself, this is old stuff, but the techniques for such deception are more sophisticated and elaborate than ever."

Oh really? (4, Funny)

toupsie (88295) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490330)

Slashdot. Pot. Kettle. Black. Rinse. Repeat.

Re:Oh really? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490406)

Not to toot slashdot's horn, but when slashdot screws up, they tend to admit it.

When everyone's favorite really-pretty-nice-guy-who-played-an-annoying-as-H ell-character-on-TV pointed out that James Doohan was, in fact, in reasonably good health, an update was posted in the story blurb to that effect, and the original story was left up.

In other words, slashdot didn't just yank the story and hope no one noticed.

This is different; the story was clandestinely changed, presumably by a secret cabal of webninjas maintained for the purpose.

Webninjas are cool, and you won't catch me saying otherwise, but putting them to this kind of use is really sleazy. Their mighty HTML tags should be used only for good. To do otherwise would be double-plus ungood.

Isn't it what G. Orwell had described ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490335)

This was the main job of the Ministry of Truth. Currently, the news agencies are not openly associated with the government... But does it make a difference at the end ?

WAR IS PEACE !

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY !

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH !

K.L.M.

Perhaps it because... (1)

csguy314 (559705) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490340)

they want to get the article on as quickly as possible, so the skip over most of the editing.
But then go back over it and edit it more carefully and then repost it.
The real question is whether content changes. If all the words and the headline are different, it doesn't really matter, as long as the content and main points of the article remain the same.
That said, to be honest, I never read CNN. It's pretty useless for any real news. It's watered down for consumption of the american public. This is common knowledge to just about everyone who doesn't live in North America. Especially concerning touchy american foreign policy issues.
BBC is a lot better

morning evening (1)

Bubba-T (578601) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490343)

Remember the days when there was a morning edition and and evening edition of a newspaper. I am sure some stores changed there also

Re:morning evening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490547)

Still happens. At least here in the UK, the evening standard has quiet a few editions throughout the day.

TV vs Newspaper (5, Insightful)

jefferson (95937) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490354)

I can understand why CNN thinks this is no big deal. CNN was (and is) primarily a TV news station. On TV news, there is no archive or changelog for writethroughs: the copy gets rewritten, and the reporter or anchor reads it on the air. The only way you notice the changes is if you happened to see a previous version of the story earlier in the day.

CNN obviously sees the web as a translation of their TV news business, rather than as a translation of a print-news wire service business, so to them it seems fine! To them the web is a transient medium, like TV, not a fixed medium like print.

Of course, at first glance this seems fine, until linking of stories factors into the equation.

Of course, there are technological solutions to this, but getting CNN to adopt them could be a challenge, because it means converting them from a TV mindset to a print mindset.

Re:TV vs Newspaper (1)

MdeG (209400) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490477)

Your linking point is a good one: there are differences in the nature of the medium - a TV story may be continuously updated but no-one would think that the broadcast at 18h00 is the same as the one at 16h00.

In other words, if you comment on the 16h00 - you're not going to be upset if the story has chenged at 18h00. But a story on a web - same url and no changelog - could create confusion in the way that two differing broadcasts wouldn't.

Re:TV vs Newspaper (1)

leviramsey (248057) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490525)

In other words, if you comment on the 16h00 - you're not going to be upset if the story has chenged at 18h00. But a story on a web - same url and no changelog - could create confusion in the way that two differing broadcasts wouldn't.

This is why CNN should randomly shuffle their urls, especially to foil those evil people that provide direct links to content. Remember, CNN is part of Turner (in turn part of AOLTW) and you're stealing ad impressions from Turner, which makes you a terrorist!

Re:TV vs Newspaper (2)

aquarian (134728) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490539)

There absolutely *is* and archive. All broadcast material is archived on tape, I believe by law. The difference with a website is that anything cah be changed at any time, without anyone but the webmaster knowing anything about it.

Pet Peeves with News Services (1)

DarkBlack (5773) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490362)

I think that the service should be identified as a wire service if it is to be interpreted that way. Most newspapers should not edit their stories, for example.

CNN on the otherhand, updates their stories throughout the day on television, so it fits that that is how their website is done. I may believe that modifying their stories throughout the day to have a different slant is not ethical, but that is how it is done.

I personally feel that the Update notice that Slashdot occasionally does is refreshing. People make mistakes and it's nice to see that they fix them. It's also nice when they update the story to the latest news.

Please, News Services, let us know when you change a story. It really helps us keep up. with the latest developments. As for CNN, I hate having to re-read a whole article to see what has changed. I just want what is news.

What's the problem? (2)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490363)

I don't see why this is an issue at all.

At the end of the day if a given source provide their take on a story then that's their take. Whether their first take, last take or whatever best matches your own views seems irrevelant.

If there any indication that a bews source changed it's story due to outside pressure than that would of course affect their credibility, but you'd be naieve not to think that there were biases, angles and prudent decisions built into the way any story is reported.

Re:What's the problem? (2, Insightful)

Esgaroth (515377) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490443)

The problem is after-news sites like Slashdot. The original was linked and the slashdot story [slashdot.org] mentioned the complete misunderstanding of what KDE and Gnome were by the witness. This wasn't mentioned at all in the updated article.

This is a big deal to after-news sites.

Until 9/11, CNN was different... (5, Informative)

Etcetera (14711) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490366)


Prior to the immediately-updating news requirements caused by the 9/11 attacks, CNN had a very reasonable method for dealing with this.

The initial story created had an URL like http://www.cnn.com/2000/books/news/07/07/harrypott er.preps/ [cnn.com] while the next "revision" would have http://www.cnn.com/2000/books/news/07/07/harrypott er.preps.02/ [cnn.com] and so on...

A very good system IMO which allowed one to link to a specific version of an article, and allowed the reader to see the progress and revisions of a story if they were smart enough to notice the numbers at the top. As long as their internal database stayed up to date, the front page always linked to the latest version.

During and after 9/11, articles were updated so frequently that the major stories (on all news sites) became "newest information" pages rather than articles per-se. Since then, I've noticed hardly any articles posted using the old systems, with revisions now being made in place.

CNN please bring back the old method! It made sense and was a fair method of dealing with this issue!

Re:Until 9/11, CNN was different... (5, Informative)

Uglor (39632) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490523)

Actually, each of those stories could have been a writethrough as well.

I worked at CNN.com from 1998-2001. The main newsroom was staffed 24 hours a day in 8 hour shifts. Each shift set up a rundown their top stories and coverage. Frequently a top story would get a full rewrite for each shift (02, 03, etc) while other times it would just be freshened with a new intro and possibly new pictures but the same url.

And CNN.com policy was to put a new timestamp on a story if you changed ANYTHING.

You know what they say about the Internet... (2, Funny)

Hydro-X (549998) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490371)

This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.

Attn: Slashdot (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490375)

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Slashdot has it right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490376)

I think Slashdot has it figured out. /. will post a story once, wait a day or two, and repost the story. Let's have a cheer for honest reporting!

Volatile (1)

noz (253073) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490377)

I think the different medium (in comparison to print) is employed differently. Not to say that changing articles is a 'good' or 'acceptible' practice, personal opinions aside, but I don't think it's very academic or professional. Stories posted in a rush to be the first, and changed later for the inclusion of fact. The internet is a volatile and fresh medium, but this is a clear example of the lack of professionalism.

I've seen slashdot do it! (1)

FearUncertaintyDoubt (578295) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490378)

A few weeks back, I saw a story on slashdot posted with about 10 comments. Most of the comments were people yelling that this was a repeat story from a few days earlier. I refreshed a few minutes later and the whole story was gone. I'm not sure why this story was selected to be deleted when so many other reposts happen. I wished I had took a screen shot of the page.

But then again, slashdot steadfastly refuses to correct blatant errors, bad grammar, horrid spelling, botched acronyms (DCMA anyone?) in their story postings. And I don't want to get into editor comments in stories. Some things you wouldn't mind being "revised"...

Re:I've seen slashdot do it! (3, Funny)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490527)

Damn straight! Did you know that Taco had originally proposed to Natlie Portman back on Valentines Day?

So what's the problem, again? (4, Insightful)

Patman (32745) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490383)

I read both versions. The first was skewed heavily towards the performance of one witness in the trial.
The second was a much more well-reasoned discussion of the case as a whole vs. one tiny piece of it.

So what's the problem? The second story seems to be better-written and easier to read, and contains more information.

It's not like they changed the facts of the story; just the scope and the level of detail.

As an aside, does anyone else find it funny that a site that claims to be "News for Nerds", yet claims they shouldn't be handle to any journalistic standards, thinks that they have the right to call other news services on minor issues like this? At least those folks are trying.

More disturbing... (5, Insightful)

Archie Steel (539670) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490385)

...are (admittedly controversial) articles that are posted on a major news web site, then taken off a few days later, like this one [1accesshost.com] , or this other one [democrats.com] . This is a dangerous trend, and asks a sensitive question: why "remove" stories instead of putting out counter-arguments? Freedom of speech has it that you can say anything (almost: libel and slander are not acceptable), but anyone can challenge what you say by bringing their own arguments to the discussion. Too often, though, the american media silences alternative viewpoints by excluding them from the debate, so that the public doesn't even know they existe. Case in point: how come Chomsky hasn't been invited to present his views about the 9/11 events on television? If his arguments are so weak as the conservative pundits claim, why not simply try to prove him wrong on the air? Well, there's a good answer to that: they can't, and they know it. So they just ignore his existence altogether, and immediately try to discredit him (without ever challenging his arguments) whenever he is mentioned. Quite revealing...

Isn't It Ironic, don't you think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490387)

slashdot explaining what's wrong with journalism? what the hell? like they have the moral upper hand here? please roblimo, practice what you preach.

slashdot: do as I say, not as I do.

Salon.com does it, too (1)

e40 (448424) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490388)

This [salon.com] story originally had "Tivo" in the headline (but not in the body). Later in the day when I checked back, they had fixed it, but there is no mention of it in the body.

I fully support a ChangeLog of a standard format for news stories.

In Oldspeak (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490390)

"The reporting of Big Brother's Order for the Day in the Times of December 3rd 1983 is extremely unsatisfactory and makes reference to nonexistent persons. Rewrite it in full and submit your draft to a higher authority before filing."

Legal ramifications (1)

MdeG (209400) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490400)

IANAL (clearly).
I wonder what the legal ramifications are: If a story is libellous on the first run, then changed on the second, is it still libel? I supposed its mitigated in its seriousness.
In Broadcasting - which the comparison is made with, a copy of each broadcast is legally required in many jurisdictions (for regulatory reasons as much as anything else). But in this case, not even that occurs; apart from cached or saved versions, there doesn't seem to be any way to ensure that there is an official archive available.
Even if there is no malice in this case, there may be (in others) an incentive to make such changes if there is no legally verifiable record.

Happens a lot in sport stories (2)

gambit3 (463693) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490401)

While going through college, one of my classmates had a friend who was a sport reporter for a major wire news service, and he (the reporter) had to write the news as it was happening from TWO different perspectives, and the one that got used would depend on which team won.

It's a common practice in sport websites that provide live coverage, like the one I frequent most, Sportsline.com [sportsline.com] that the lead story is often written and rewritten during the course of a live game, depending on how it progresses. That's sometimes the price you have for near-real-time news.

Congratulations Roblimo and Thanks (5, Insightful)

gamorck (151734) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490402)

For finally showing slashdot what it takes to create a real news story. While I do find it amusing that slashdot engages in the same practices that you seem to rebel against here, I think its actually quite impressive that:

(1) Actual research was done by a slashdot employee for this article. Roblimo actually took the time to call a CNN employee and allow them to confirm/deny the allegations at hand.

(2) Roblimo doesnt appear to jump to any "off the wall" conspiracy conclusions as some editors here have been known to do. He leaves that for the comment posters to do :-)

(3) The article is very balanced all in all. I think Roblimo is attempting to present both sides of the story and give the reader a chance to make up his own mind. Now that is true journalism.

In short thank your Roblimo for helping to raise the bar here at /. I can only hope that the other editors learn from your example and attempt to follow suit.

J

Proof every news site can be guilty... (1)

reparteeist (533894) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490409)

This Slashdot story was originally about the Microsoft Trial.

slashdot leads the pack (1)

tps12 (105590) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490411)

This is one area where slashdot does the Right Thing where other sites do not always. I find the "Updated" note useful and informative when a slashdot editor corrects one of the plentiful factual errors or broken links.

Re:slashdot leads the pack (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490502)

You must not notice the silent changes and the quiet front page story pulls. They do engage in this sort of thing, just not as a matter of course.

Rewriting stories (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490414)

Does anybody know if NetBSD has been ported to this yet?

Even Slashdot is guilty of this (*GASP!*) (2)

pomakis (323200) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490419)

Slashdot does this fairly often, in fact. For example, the "James Doohan Not In A Coma and Likely To Survive [slashdot.org] " story was originally titled "James Doohan In A Coma And Not Likely To Survive", and was modified on-the-fly as more facts became available. Very confusing.

Even the headline and byline changed... (1)

stevenprentice (202455) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490440)

If the headline and byline changed, wouldn't that make it a new story? What's the big deal? If I saw a short breaking news story on CNN and then went back an hour later and a story on the same topic with a different headline was much longer and more detailed, I would be grateful...not yelling conspiracy.

Newspapers Change (4, Informative)

maggard (5579) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490448)

There seems to be this assumption that what I read in "Mytown Daily Tattler" is the same as you do - it isn't.

Many papers (larger ones) have a series of runs that are printed at varying times. There are also often local editions. Thus I may get the early-am run and you might get the late morning one. Or I may get the downtown edition and you the suburban.

Any of these papers might vary from the others. The story "Sun Rises" might become "Sun Rises Brightly". Or it might be replaced with "Grass Grows" or something else completely different.

No, what you've read or clipped out doesn't magically go back and erase or rewrite itself but it is also quite possibly not the same as everyone else in the classroom / office / nursing home read.

I agree a versioning system would be great for newpspers. Heck, many (incl. large ones like the Boston Globe) lack stable URLS for daily stories for the move from current to archived.

I also respect that this additionial material would be likely disturb readers who prefer their news solid and immutable and would be unhappy to see the changes a story they're reading has gone through. Seeing how the facts evolve and the wroters tone changes, perhaps dramatically.

And yes there is the problem of links pointing to stale versions of a story, the extra material to be stored, indexed, & archived, etc.

Versioning is a good idea and one I've heard brought up many times but to date the practice seems to follow the print style. Declare the last edition of a run the definitive one, the final version of a story the actual story.

Not the first time... (3, Interesting)

thumbtack (445103) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490453)

The following took place on the tube, not the web: After the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up, killing the crew and school teacher Chirsta McAuliffe, I saw a news story several times on Headline News where a particular insurance company had issued a 1 Million Dollar policy to her, and would now have to pay off on it. It just so happened that my ex was the executive secretary to the president of the company. I spoke with her by phone shortly after seeing the story, and mentioned it to her. She totally freaked out, "How did you know that?" That's not public knowledge!". I told her I saw it on CNN Headline News, She made a rapid exit and promised she would call me back in a little while. The insurance company concentrated on business insurance and usually didn't handle individual policies. She called back about an hour later thanking me for the heads up. The story never appeared again. I asked her about it and all she would say was "It was handled."

Huh!?! (1)

burnsy (563104) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490457)

So these guys have enough technical sense to create a web page that...

Contains about 10 advertisments with some that rotate
A Netscape Nav bar
Drop's three cookies on to my harddrive

But they can't come up with a versioning app for their news stories?

Seem pretty clear that they don't want to be journalists, they just want to pump up page views.

Paperless office? (1)

Asprin (545477) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490458)

I believe this is also why the paperless office hasn't evolved like we expected: Computers are great at keeping information current, but previous versions of the info are too easily discarded because data is centrally stored (everyone works on the SAME copy) and the electrons are easily erased and reused. Business really does need to track all those little changes in the middle because they also tell a story about how their documents evolve, and therefore the decisions that were made, and ultimately how their organization works.

CNN is hugely guilty of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490473)

It's pretty ironic that the company writing about it is also the company who does it the most often and blatantly. I often check the site multiple times throughout the day to watch the details whether minor or major, and typos of similar importance, to be changed numerous times throughout the day. It seems that they do whatever they can to get the story published out on the net ASAP and then use spare time during the day to go back and make changes and corrections.

What's the deal? (2, Informative)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490479)

They do this on slashdot all the time. I kept the original article on slashdot about the September 11 attacks up for a few days because it had changed so much. The original seemed to express more shock than the final version.

So that's why... (1)

PunchMonkey (261983) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490490)

...Slashdot keeps reposting the same stories. Their "writethroughs", not reposts.

Re:So that's why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3490507)

"They're" I mean. My bad :)

slash? (1)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490501)

So says Roblimo:
Perhaps one of you Slashdot-reading CNN tech guys could talk to Wastler and other CNN editors about automatic story versioning

You trying to get CNN to run Slash [slashcode.com] ?

You mean some people read the same story again? (1)

mwood (25379) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490505)

If they rewrite a story I've already read, I wouldn't know it because I don't read it again. If it has the same title, it's the same story. If you wanna change the story, please change the title or add "(revised)" or something.

In fact, the thing that really bugs me about CNN.Com is that they also change the title without changing the story. Several times a week I see a fresh title, plow through several screens, and then realize, "hey, I already read this." Close tab, start reading next story.

Versioning on the web (2)

lightray (215185) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490519)

Although this problem is an especially serious one when it comes to journalism, it's a general problem with the WWW. Sometimes one wants to link to a specific version of a webpage or examine the changes that have made. One solution is to use RCS to keep track of page versions, and use a web server extension (such as an apache module [scu.edu.au] ) that allows access to the changelog and to past versions. I would love to see this implemented widely...

I hacked up a little perl script [splorg.org] demonstrating the idea. Now each of my web pages can have a "this page contains version information" link to its changelog.

And then there's VMS which has versioning built into the filesystem...

The articles are totally different (1)

HalB (127906) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490549)

The articles linked to in this story are totally different articles. The only thing they share in common is the general topic of modularizing windows in the anti-trust case, and they both mention the Microsoft expert witness.

The original one is about the floundering of the Microsoft witness on the stand, with some footnotes on the case - no reference is made to RealNetworks.

The current one is about how RealNetworks figures into the Microsoft case with some footnotes of support from the Microsoft expert witness.

This isn't the question of a "minor edit" or "correction" It is a totally different story. If you ran diff on the two articles, you'd get basically entire copies of both articles as a result.

The current article would make a good followup to the original article. I'm more inclined to guess that it replaced the original article on accident rather intentionally because the articles are so different.

OTOH, replacing the original article with the current article nets a huge positive change in PR for Microsoft. While this in itself isn't proof of anything, it certainly merits asking questions given Microsoft's track record of strong-arm tactics.

One who controls the past, controls the future... (1)

WetCat (558132) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490552)

Orwell... 1994...
Or (not so grave) Stanislaw Lem.
Stanislaw Lem. Ekstelopedia Vestranda (1973)
(about an electronic book that changes itself while you read it...).

I fail to see what the big deal is. (2, Insightful)

saider (177166) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490554)

The world changes and so does the news. If I read a story that is developing, I'd rather read a single cohesive document rather than an initial report followed by a truckload of corrections and additions. I read enough changelogs in my job, I really do not want to have to deal with it when I'm checking the market. Just give me the latest stuff. If I want an update, I can go back to my bookmark and get the update.

It's not wrong, but it's not good (2)

iabervon (1971) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490558)

Bit ironic to see on slashdot, where there are frequently (maybe twice a day) unmarked minor corrections to stories due to comments which point out problems (the URL doesn't work, the title has a typo, etc). Of course, more major updates do get marked as such, presumably so that readers will reread them.

First of all, there's no reason you can't fetch yourself a copy of a story in the morning, and then read it whenever you want, refer back to it on a later date, compare it with a later edition, etc. In fact, if anything prevented this, we wouldn't have this article. It's not like you can call up a newspaper and ask them to print you yesterday's paper. If you want to see yesterday's paper, you look at a copy produced by the company yesterday, achived by you or someone else. It's not the news people's job to write history; it's their job to write current events. As things change, it's not their job to tell you about the past.

Should they mark updates? Yes, but for the same reason that slashdot marks them: it is a disservice to people who read the original or people the original was unfavorable to if the new version is not marked as such, because people won't reread the article, and will not know about the new information.

funnily enough (2)

K. (10774) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490574)

I had this same argument with a friend who used to be the editor for our national broadcaster's online news service [www.rte.ie] . He was very surprised that I considered it an issue, and thought that it was in fact an advantage of the web over traditional media, that you could seamlessly update and modify stories. He wasn't swayed by the 1984 comparison, or the point that he was deleting a valuable historical reference. But then he was working for an organisation that recorded over the Wanderly Wagon [google.com] archive tapes rather than buy new ones.

It's funny the way we're ending up with a de facto, distributed Big Brother. Life eh.

Minor or major issue? (2, Interesting)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490585)

For people who's lives are not directly impacted by the stories that are reported, I don't see a problem with re-writes of stories. On the other hand, almost every story has a direct impact on someone.

Let's say that a writer for WSJ reports that Cisco has done major cuts to it's overhead in a story three days ago. If you invest in Cisco, this would peque your interest. You might even realize that the primary way companies have cut overhead is to get rid of either part of their development team, or part of their support team. Either solution may provide you the impetus to sell part of your stock, as they both lead you to the conclusion that they have made a short term profit decision that will negatively impact long term results.

A day later Cisco reports a major increase in profits as a result of their decision to cut overhead. The stock jumps 18% the next day.

You decide to go take a look at the story again, and find that now the URL returns a story by a different author with glowing reports of the profitability of the company.

If you sold your stock before the quarterly results posted, you took a major hit on the potential for your earnings for the stock. The new story does not support your decision. The decision to sell was yours, but it was guided by a story that you can't find anymore, and because of the newspaper's guidelines stating that it is ok to "revise without notification" stories on-line, you are left holding the bag, and even more skeptical of what you read online.

There are only two possible solutions to this that I can see. Either the online newspapers take responsibility and provide notification to the readers that the stories they may be relying upon have been updated, or some tool needs to be developed that will allow a user to flag stories for monitoring that will notify them if the story has been updated.

Unfortunately either will impact the newspaper's bandwidth.

Then again, I don't own stock in Cisco, (though I should get some) so at the moment such a story would not directly impact me.

-Rusty

Explanation of confusion (1)

Tyreth (523822) | more than 12 years ago | (#3490590)

This explains why when this story first appeared on slashdot I felt I was reading a totally different article to everyone else. I remember this one. now I can finally read the original :)

I agree that reports of changes to articles should be kept - preferably with a new URL so that pages linked to articles will remain static. Perhaps on the old page they could put a notice somewhere that an updated/revised edition of the news article is available. And on the new site list that changes have been made, along with a link to the changes/old article.

If this practice is common, then I think the general public should be made aware that this is how news sites work. I send stories off to people in e-mails...it would be irritating to find out that some of them had changed to say something different by the time it reached those people.
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