Patterico's Pontifications

10/7/2008

More Details on the L.A. Times Story Sent Down the Memory Hole

Filed under: 2008 Election,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 11:56 pm

An update to a post I published last night really deserves its own post. Last night, the Los Angeles Times published a story online, and then replaced it with a completely different story — written by a different reporter, with wholly different language — using the same Web address.

The original story got whisked down the memory hole.

But not entirely — thanks to my screenshots, and the Google cache.

Here’s the proof. Last night, I linked a story written by Seema Metha and Michael Muskal:

I linked the story at this URL: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-campaign7-2008oct07,0,66788.story. But if you click on that URL now, the weirdest thing happens. You get this story, by Peter Wallsten:

It’s a totally different story by a different writer.

The original version lives on in Google’s cache. If you do this Google search, the 7th entry currently shows this result:

Note the title and opening paragraph. It’s the same as the original Metha/Muskal story I linked. If you click on the “this Google search” link in the previous paragraph, and click on the word “Cached” under the link, you get the cached version of the original:

But if you click on the URL itself, you get the Wallsten version.

Try it yourself.

The original version was sent down the memory hole. The new version lives on at the same URL.

What the hell are they doing with their web site at the L.A. Times??

P.S. I received a very special e-mail from a reader about my post yesterday on the disappeared story, in which the L.A. Times hid from its readers the fact that McCain was attacking Obama on the economy. My reader says my post was the kick in the pants he needed to cancel his subscription.

That’s one more reader fighting for truth.

P.P.S. I am aware that it is apparently standard journalistic practice to yank or completely rewrite stories without explanation or notice. The AP famously did this during the Jamil Hussein controversy, for example.

My position is the same now as it was then: regardless of whether this is common practice, it shouldn’t be. Sending the original story into oblivion, without any hint that it ever existed, feeds a sense of mistrust among readers. This is especially true when the vanishing story was so flawed that readers might suspect that it is being suppressed as part of a deliberate cover-up.

Big Media is now on the Web, and the Web demands transparency. Big Media will have to adapt to the Web, and not the other way around.

18 Comments

  1. What is it like having to screenshot virtually every LA Times story you read?

    You never know what’s going to change.

    Comment by Juan (4cdfb7) — 10/8/2008 @ 1:13 am

  2. Big Media is now on the Web, and the Web demands transparency.

    There is no gate to keep anymore. If Big Media is on the Web, then they’re not big. They’re the same size as everyone else.

    And it’s a beautiful thing.

    Comment by Apogee (366e8b) — 10/8/2008 @ 1:33 am

  3. The SNL skit also went down the rabbit hole….only to reappear on another website with a YouTube embed. I can only assume that NBC caved after tons of people accused them of being fascists. You keep bashing the Times, a paper with so small a circulation as to be literally irrelevant journalism; a “if a tree falls in the forest” analogy might be: if an article appears in the LA Times has it ever appeared at all?

    Comment by howard432 (cc8b85) — 10/8/2008 @ 4:27 am

  4. Speaking of “down the rabbit hole”. . .

    This is extremely serious, Patterico, and I do hope you’ll have something valid to say about it — rather than dismiss it out of hand.

    Comment by David Ehrenstein (3f6e26) — 10/8/2008 @ 5:51 am

  5. Patterico wrote, “What the hell are they doing with their web site at the L.A. Times??

    They’re panicked, flinching and flanking and ducking and covering in almost real time.

    The L.A. Times is terrified…of you, and the thousands of prying eyeballs that follow your pointing finger.

    They’re on the run. No wonder more of them are being walked out the door even as we speak.

    Comment by Looking Glass (13e606) — 10/8/2008 @ 6:09 am

  6. #3, NBC removed the reference to Barney Frank’s responsibility for the failure of Fannie and Freddie. NBC covered for their cover-up with concern for possible legal issues with Soros groupies Herb and Marion Sandler, (World Savings) identified as responsible for the Wachovia Bank failure.

    Those legal concerns may have some merit, folks with lots of money can be troublesome, but clearly such concerns are not related to NBC’s whitewash of Barney Frank’s central role in preventing Congressional oversight of FannieMae and FreddieMac.

    Comment by Ropelight (36617f) — 10/8/2008 @ 6:24 am

  7. What the hell are they doing with their web site at the L.A. Times??

    “Michael Hiltzek’s bold leadership must not be interred with his bones! Lieing forever can now become living forever!”

    Comment by J. Peden (1160b2) — 10/8/2008 @ 6:30 am

  8. When you’re dealing with multiple print editions of the same day’s paper, changing a story within a certain news hole is more understandable, since there’s a limited amount of space unless you want to add 2-4 pages into each paper when your ad budget is already set (i.e., you’re using ink, paper and electricity to print those extra pages on your own dime if you don’t have any ads sold for those pages). But doing it on a website, where the additional storage space required to store two seperate URLs is a fraction of a cent, is either idiotic or mendacious, depending on what you want to believe about the Times’ biases, cheapness and/or stupidity.

    Comment by John (4a5dc5) — 10/8/2008 @ 7:03 am

  9. Bizarre behavior by a bizarre institution.

    Comment by Chris (cefe13) — 10/8/2008 @ 7:43 am

  10. This is especially true when the vanishing story was so flawed that readers might suspect that it is being suppressed as part of a deliberate cover-up.
    Let me rewrite that a little:
    This is especially true when the vanishing story was so flawed that even the LA Times realized it should never have been published in the first place.
    Still the same opinion?

    Comment by kishnevi (0b82c2) — 10/8/2008 @ 8:12 am

  11. I notice that the LAT ran their first story about ACORN today, on the back page of the front section. Despite Barack Obama’s long political association with this organization, and ACORN’s role in the on-going financial crisis the Times has never seen fit to mention ACORN until today.

    Today’s story perfunctorily noted that ACORN’s Nevada office was raided by authorities looking for evidence of voter fraud without mentioning the fact that one of the candidates in the current Presidential campaign is using this organization for his get-out-the-vote projects.

    Comment by Aldo (4ca181) — 10/8/2008 @ 10:39 am

  12. McCain’s plan to deal with the banking crisis More Free Money for Irresponsible Rich People.

    Comment by Someone who reads (82bcfd) — 10/8/2008 @ 10:47 am

  13. Another Obamabot. There are a number of proposals floating around as follow-up in case the Paulson plan fails, as it may well do. One plan is to buy the houses in foreclosure and either sell them for what they will bring or demolish them. Many are spec houses and condos that are not completed. Foreclosed properties rapidly deteriorate and the cost of liquidating them may be less than the bank rescue. Clearing the market of distressed property may help the housing market and stem the losses. Much of this property is NOT owner-occupied. That is probably why the SNL skit, which pointed this out in hilarious fashion, was quickly suppressed by NBC.

    McCain’s proposal is one of many being discussed and may not survive but is a realistic idea when there is paralysis in the banking industry.

    One additional point not mentioned anywhere I’ve seen is the role of mortgage insurance companies who were making fortunes on the sub-prime loans. They are another culprit that has been below the radar so far.

    Comment by Mike K (d8deba) — 10/8/2008 @ 11:17 am

  14. Demolishing of the distressed, unoccupied properties is a proposal that has been floated in the WSJ (by Holman Jenkins, IIRC) since before the Paulson plan surfaced, and is targeted at reducing the supply of vacant housing that the market has to accomodate, thereby stabilizing the market, if not to increase the value of existing property.

    Another proposal that I think is more workable, is to use the tax code to work our way out of this problem by suspending the Cap-Gains and Corp Income Tax for (say) five years to let private money deal with this problem by making it more attractive for those with the funds to invest to get back into the market.

    The money is out there (witness the funds that Berkshire-Hathaway has poured into Wall Street in the last few weeks), there is just a lack of confidence that a profit can be made, and that borrowing will be paid back.

    The prospect of a totally Left regime in DC cannot be something that engenders confidence in a free-market economy for the future.

    Comment by Another Drew (db2f44) — 10/8/2008 @ 11:30 am

  15. The prospect of a totally Left regime in DC cannot be something that engenders confidence in a free-market economy for the future.

    Try to get a government job if you can. The government unions should do very nicely with an Obama administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress (and MSM). The private sector? Not so much.

    Comment by Aldo (4ca181) — 10/8/2008 @ 12:23 pm

  16. Comment by Aldo — 10/8/2008 @ 12:23 pm

    Good advice if you are just starting out.
    Not so good if you’re facing your retirement years.

    Comment by AOracle (db2f44) — 10/8/2008 @ 12:33 pm

  17. The Houston Chronicle does this same thing.

    Then after a few weeks, it firewalls the results.

    SO Twentieth Century.

    Comment by Beldar (676b02) — 10/9/2008 @ 2:09 am

  18. You’ve done a superb job covering many of the LA Times’ journalistic lapses. I’m writing to let you know that your latest posts reporting the disappearing article about McCain’s comment concerning the economy were the last straw for me. I finally cancelled my subscription today, after 40+ years.

    I give credit to David Hiller for his constructive efforts during his tenure as publisher, but things are going from bad to worse.

    I wish the LA Times well in regaining journalistic balance, quality, and integrity in these turbulent times.

    Manny Klausner

    P.S. Are you planning to come to Reason Magazine’s 40th anniversary celebration in Los Angeles next month? See reason.com or contact me if you’d like further details.

    Comment by Manuel Klausner (c518b9) — 10/13/2008 @ 3:50 am

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