LJWorld.com weblogs Adam Vossen

When to Edit Online News


Newspapers’ move to the Internet has made articles and their information constantly available, for years after their initial publication.

This has led to people requesting that newspapers “unpublish” certain pieces of information in the article, as Kathy English, public editor of the Toronto Star, has researched in "The Longtail of News: To Unpublish or Not to Unpublish.”

English has discovered that when people request a newspaper to rewrite a past story it may be for something such as charges dropped that they no longer want linked to them. An understandable request.

Other times, sources want to have their quotes removed after rethinking what they want readers to know about them. Too bad, so sad, I say.

Regardless of the reason, should a newspaper comply with unpublishing? Should a newspaper be responsible for constantly updating its online information?

It brings to mind the history-changing that goes on in Orson Welles’ “1984.” If some information can be changed, where do editors draw the line?

An article is a snapshot of history. Even if some years later its information no longer represents the contemporary, at one time it was factual. The snapshot that it embodies has relevance for future generations to reflect on.

Unpublishing means censoring or rewriting history, one editor said to English in her research. I agree with this; granting an edit to one unhappy reader means opening the floodgates to multitude of rewrites (and headaches) for editors.

Another editor said “If we err, or if new relevant facts emerge, we should correct and update online articles.” But where does this end?

Newsrooms today have limited resources as it is, without having to go back and reword the countless articles that contain information that has changed over time. And really, isn’t that nearly every article?


mrsteffen 8 years, 5 months ago

So true Adam, every story seemingly has an infinite life. To go back and update every one would be enough work to be its own position within a news organization, and as you also pointed out newsrooms are already stretched to the max. It is unfortunate for those individuals who may be forever tied to criminal charges that were eventually dropped, but that's life I guess.

AnnaUndercover 8 years, 5 months ago

Hmm. I ask these questions a lot when I post.

ashleym 8 years, 5 months ago

I think major errors should be corrected, just as corrections are printed in newspapers. But to constantly update every story is insane. That's what the date at the top and follow-up stories are for.

adam quote of the day: too bad, so sad

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