This is yet another entry in the saga of the Amazing Disappearing Blog Posts and Comments at the L.A. Times. Background here, here, here, and here.
Let’s review the amusing timeline of the past few days, shall we? It’s a worthwhile exercise. Although this whole thing is in some ways a relatively trivial matter, it also goes to how a major Big Media site handles its disclosures and alterations on its blogs. In that sense, it’s not at all insignificant.
To have some fun with it, I thought the saga might benefit from the dramatic overlay of a timeline of events — just to show how the weaselly nature of the folks involved in putting out the “Top of the Ticket” blog.
So, without further ado, here is your Dramatic Timeline. Try to keep from chuckling as you read it. If you make it all the way through without a single chuckle, you just aren’t the chuckling type. Work on it!
- L.A. Times political blogger Andrew Malcolm puts up a blog post about John Edwards’s alleged extramarital affair. The blog post is lengthy and contains numerous details. For example, the post names Rielle Hunter as the producer of webisodes that lingered on Edwards’s backside. How salacious! It also quotes an anonymous National Enquirer source talking about the alleged affair. We love details! Pat Dollard excerpts all of this at length.
- A bevy of commenters complains about the tabloid nature of the story. Blogger Andrew Malcolm replies in parenthetical comments that the paper has to cover the story because of Edwards’s denial. Anything else would be “censoring” content. I get a screencap of one of Malcolm’s parenthetical remarks.
- 11:40 p.m.: I e-mail Malcolm about the missing post. I also e-mail Mickey Kaus that same minute. It has now been 30-38 hours since the post was taken down.
- 11:49 p.m. or just before: Just minutes after my e-mail to Malcolm, the post magically reappears! 30-38 hours after it was taken down, it’s now suddenly back. What a coincidence! I’m sure it has nothing to do with the e-mail I had sent just minutes earlier.
The post now has three more paragraphs deleted — namely, the paragraphs with the quotes from the anonymous National Enquirer source. Knowing that I’m on to them, Malcolm and/or his editors include a brief note: “(This item was originally posted Thursday evening, Oct. 11. It was removed by an editor Friday but was reposted Saturday in a shortened form.)”
- 11:54 p.m.: I e-mail Mickey to tell him the post has been restored.
- 12:07 a.m.: Mickey e-mails back to say he has already blogged the item.
- 1:33 a.m.: A commenter of mine notes that Malcolm’s parenthetical remarks about censorship have been removed from several comments.
- 1:41 a.m.: I note that I have updated the post, to include my commenter’s observation about the missing parenthetical remarks.
- 1:59 a.m.: Commenter Christoph attempts to submit a comment to the L.A. Times blog post, with links to my post, asking what is going on.
- 11:43 a.m.: I post a new and clearer explanation of what has happened so far. L.A. Observed links it and says that it needs to be explained. Did I mention that people at the L.A. Times read L.A. Observed?
- 6:50 a.m.: I note the missing paragraphs quoted by Dollard, regarding Hunter and John Edwards’s backside. I also note (and screencap, sensing it might disappear) Malcolm’s parenthetical remark that the post didn’t identify Hunter as the other woman. I note the misleading nature of that remark, saying: “Yeah, but an earlier version of your post mentioned her!”
I also note that Malcolm has failed to post Christoph’s comment from 1:59 a.m. Saturday morning — even though subsequent comments on other posts have been approved. (I say nothing regarding Christoph’s 2:08 a.m. Saturday morning comment.)
L.A. Observed links my post. Again, that means it is read by numerous people at the L.A. Times.
- Evening: the misleading parenthetical remark from Malcolm that I mentioned this morning has disappeared. As has happened so many times before, no mention is made of the deletion.
Christoph’s comment from 1:59 a.m. Saturday morning, which I mentioned in my post this morning, has been posted.
Christoph’s 2:08 a.m. Saturday morning comment, which I didn’t mention this morning, has not been posted — even though subsequent comments from other commenters on the same post have been approved.
Is it clear to you yet that they’re dribbling out information only to the extent that I force them to do so?
Look: I’m sympathetic to the plight of bloggers at major newspapers, who have to balance the blogger’s need for speed with a large news organization’s desire for accurate reporting. L.A. Times editors ultimately must decide what goes on their web site, and it’s difficult to balance speed and accuracy, as bloggers have long known.
But a protocol has emerged in the blogging world to deal with such situations. I think it’s time that the L.A. Times learned general Internet protocol for disclosure when major changes are made.
The general rule is transparency. When posts are killed, it’s generally best to note that fact somehow — as I did here, for example. When material corrections are made, they should be noted.
Failure to conform to accepted Internet protocol is not the end of the world. It is cause for gentle teasing. Also, what constitutes proper protocol is open for debate.
But what is clearly beyond the pale is dishonesty or clear sneakiness. What loses you credibility is a consistent pattern of covering up, then covering up the cover-up — and then covering up the cover-up of the cover-up. You can’t go around pretending that you did one thing, and admit you did another only when you’re caught.
This is what we’re seeing at the Top of the Ticket blog. The above timeline makes it crystal clear that someone at that blog is paying close attention to what is being written on my site — and they’re gradually publishing information only when it’s clear that I already have it. They’re also hiding inaccuracies and embarrassing comments . . . after I note them here.
I don’t know whose fault this is. But whoever it is, needs to get their act together.
UPDATE/TEASER 10-16-07 6:23 a.m.: I have uncovered evidence of even more material deleted from Malcolm’s post! No time to post it this morning. More tonight.