NYT publishes deleted story after BuzzFeed reporter reconstructs it

The New York Times | BuzzFeed

The odd tale of a story about women who corresponded with former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner that the New York Times published, then deleted earlier this month got odder Monday: BuzzFeed reporter Andrew Kaczynski pieced a version of it together from Google searches. That same day, the Times published the missing piece.

“By looking at search result listings in a series of more than a hundred searches in Google News, it was possible to reconstruct what appears to be the bulk of the article — 1,342 words,” Kaczynski writes.

From what I’ve been able to piece together, there was a miscommunication among Times editors,” Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote a few days after the story disappeared, replaced by a note saying it had been published inadvertently.

The story’s author, Michael Barbaro, introduced the story on Twitter:


“Our editors decide when a story is ready for publication,” Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha told Poynter in an email. “Outside coverage does not play a role in that decision.”

Kaczynski’s piece is the third time in recent weeks a reporter has reconstructed changes to a Times story using online tools — Huffington Post reporter Michael Calderone used the site NewsDiffs on June 7 to show how the Times softened language in an editorial savaging the Obama administration and again on June 14 to show the paper had removed a line from a story from Iran that quoted someone as saying “I hope The New York Times building burns down.”

In 2011, former Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane asked Executive Editor Jill Abramson whether the Times would track its own changes:

Right now, tracking changes is not a priority at The Times. As Ms. Abramson told me, it’s unrealistic to preserve an “immutable, permanent record of everything we have done.”

When NewsDiffs launched last year, co-creator Eric Price told Craig Silverman, “I think historians of journalism would like to be able to access the versions of articles that many people see, not just the later version with more full information.”

Sullivan has been keeping a similar beat, saying the change to the Obama editorial “should have carried a tag that said ‘Updated,’ as many online articles do.” And she checked News Diffs to no avail when reporting on the disappeared Weiner article.

“Such are the hazards of digital misdirection, as Mr. Weiner found out,” Sullivan wrote.

“We are not considering adding a note to readers whenever we update a web story,” Rhoades Ha told me in another email. She continued:

We regularly update web stories — especially breaking news stories — to refine the story, add new information and context with the goal of improving the story. Making note of every change is unrealistic, but more importantly, it would not serve the reader.

Corrections are a different matter. We have a very strict policy on corrections, both online and in print. When we make a mistake, we correct and make note of the error.

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  • http://cas127.myopenid.com/ cas127

    “You can’t demand transparency from everyone else and not provide it yourself.”

    Cut them a break – it is hard to change a posture of arrogant unaccountability built over decades. Peons had no voice when the Grey Lady had a near monopoly on the public megaphone.

    And, don’t forget, the NYT’s *real* product is the selling of smug self-satisfaction, the possession of the “right” set of attitudes – as elaborated upon and ratified by the self-declared “Newspaper of Record”.

    (Who do you think is dim/besotted enough to pay for a picket fence paywall?)

    Not the mindset of an institution likely to admit error or bias.

  • http://cas127.myopenid.com/ cas127

    Wonder if the NYT still buys its own bullsh*t…because nobody else does anymore.

    And this is *years* after tools have started to be put into place that can *track* the NYT’s fugitive sense of accuracy and neutrality.

    Imagine what these mooks were like in the decades of utter unaccountability.

  • http://www.pbcliberal.com/ PBCliberal

    That is how Robert Eisenman reconstructed the dead sea scrolls: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Eisenman

  • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

    “Making note of every change is unrealistic, but more importantly, it would not serve the reader.”

    That’s nonsense. I give credit to the Times for being a legacy player that handles digital ethics far better than other sources, but tracking revisions is not difficult and DOES serve the reader, if only to earn and maintain trust by adding transparency to the news gathering process. Sure, at my outlet our input is the tiniest fraction of what the Times does every day, but adding a one sentence note with a timestamp is not a big deal. Moreover, it can even be automated – a chunk of the Times’ website is managed by the WordPress CMS, for example, and that already has a function in it to track revision history.

    C’mon, Times. You can’t demand transparency from everyone else and not provide it yourself.