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.