Adjusting to a Dynamic Medium

This is an interesting article which discusses writethroughs, the process of rewriting a story (sometimes dramatically) over time. This is apparently a fairly common practice amongst online news sources. The article uses one example of a CNN/Money story on the Microsoft anittrust case which, though initially very unfavorable towards Microsoft, was editted to become "more balanced," according to CNN/Money managing editor Allen Wastler.

Though it certainly doesn't seem like there is any kind of nefarious activity going on with this story, the article does highlight a very interesting point. One might assume that an article published online is static, somehow archived the moment it is published in the same way that a newspaper cannot be un-printed.

However, in the digital world, this is not really the case. Though people can make copies of a story, the "original" itself can be altered. As one person notes in this article, it isn't all that different from a television or radio broadcast which evolves throughout the day.

But does this knowledge compromise the integrity of the article or the news organization itself in some way in our eyes? For most people, reading an article on the Internet resembles reading the news out of a paper or magazine rather than hearing it on the radio or watching it on television. Along with this association come certain expectations. One of these is that the we are seeing the original work, not a variation.

Does this mean that writethroughs are bad? Absolutely not. However, news organization that do not currently publish information such as the last time an article was updated or identify what corrections were made may want to reconsider that policy. Those that communicate more clearly with their audience and better address their expectations will no doubt realize the benefit consumer trust and confidence.


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