A new website will record changes to The New York Times, CNN, BBC and POLITICO’s websites, The Times‘ public editor Arthur Brisbane highlighted.
By doing so, it can show any minor to significant changes to homepage articles. As NewsDiff’s website explained:
“Sometimes the changes are minor — small edits in language or correction of spelling mistakes. Other times, the stories change and evolve rapidly, as a result of breaking news. Occasionally, the lede and substance of an article change as more reporting comes in on a fast breaking situation. Sometimes those changes provoke criticism.”
The site was created during the “Knight Mozilla MIT hackathon on June 17, 2012” and prompted by an October New York Times story that had its “first paragraphs” changed “substantially.” As we wrote at the time, the lede of The Times’ article changed from portraying the police negatively to more neutrally. Times’ City Room Bureau Chief Andy Newman responded to criticism of the change by explaining that the story was being updated as more information came in and that the original lede “had almost no input from the police.”
As Times‘ public editor Brisbame noted, he proposed The Times create a similar system last summer. In that June 2011 column, Brisbane highlighted how stories online sometimes change so much, readers can’t ever find certain versions of a report.
Poynter’s Craig Silverman, who wrote about NewsDiffs in mid-June, noted that two previous sites, ChangeTracker and Politwoops, also monitor online changes at the White House and politicians’ Twitter accounts, respectively.
In Brisbane’s June 2012 column on NewsDiffs, he reported that creating a system like NewsDiffs “was not a priority” for the newspaper. He also called out The Times for not having more “visible policies.”
But because of NewsDiffs, he commented:
“It’s as if The Times is being turned inside out, its inner workings exposed for all to see — a kind of forced transparency.”
Now that NewsDiffs’ exists as an outside service, Brisbane wrote that The Times should have a “policy statement… defining the dos and don’ts of continuous news changes and explaining the need for the comprehensive archive” and post it with the newspaper’s ” policies on ethics, the use of social media, blogging and linking.”