Fixing Old News: How About a Corrections Wiki?
Any news org should be able to do more with corrections than this…
Denver Post 8/30/2007, p. 2B
Or this… What? You can’t see the corrections on that page?
Denver Post 8/30/2007, p. 2B
…Look way down here in the corner

Even the best journalists and editors sometimes make mistakes. Or sometimes new information surfaces that proves old stories — even very old stories — wrong, or at least casts them in a vastly different light. What’s a responsible news organization to do, especially when those old stories become more findable online?

On Aug. 28, co-founder Scott Rosenberg posted a thoughtful response to a Aug. 26 column by New York Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt: When Bad News Follows You.

In a nutshell, the Times recently implemented a search optimization strategy that increased traffic to its site — especially to its voluminous archives. This meant that stories from decades past suddenly appeared quite prominently in current search-engine results. The Times charges non-subscribers to access archived stories.

Hoyt wrote: “People are coming forward at the rate of roughly one a day to complain that they are being embarrassed, are worried about losing or not getting jobs, or may be losing customers because of the sudden prominence of old news articles that contain errors or were never followed up.”

“…Most people who complain want the articles removed from the archive. Until recently, The Times’s response has always been the same: There’s nothing we can do. Removing anything from the historical record would be, in the words of Craig Whitney, the assistant managing editor in charge of maintaining Times standards, ‘like airbrushing Trotsky out of the Kremlin picture.'”

Hoyt’s column offered no options for redress. He didn’t suggest that the Times might start researching more disputed stories or posting more follow-up stories. Nor did he suggest that the Times might directly link archived stories to follow-ups.

Rosenberg asserts that the Times has an obligation to offer redress. Personally, I agree. Plus, I’ve got an idea of how they (or any news org) could do it — and maybe even make some money in the process…

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Definitely not just mobile “phones” anymore

I am totally not a phone person. I tend to use the phone only when I absolutely have to, or to call people I already know and enjoy talking to. Right now, I only have a crappy little low-end prepaid mobile phone because I only want it to coordinate with people when I’m traveling. Most of the time it’s turned off. And on my landline, I only check voice mail a couple of times a week.

But I’m fascinated by mobile technology, and I think within a year I’ll probably buy some kind of mobile device (either a tablet PC, smart phone, or something like a Sidekick) because they’re getting to the point that they can do reasonably well stuff I want to do on the go — like blogging, and research.

This excerpt from a recent talk by Google’s chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf helps illustrate why mobile is becoming so powerful. And I pity the media organization that doesn’t take mobile very, very seriously — especially outside the US, where mobile devices tend to be much more advanced and even more widespread.

Thanks to Liz Foreman of Lost Remote for the tip.

Feeds: Getting Pretty Mainstream

David Chief, via Flickr (CC license)
How many people use feeds? Probably a whole lot more than you think.

In my Aug. 21 post, It’s not about your site anymore, I talked about how web sites are becoming less important for online content distribution as RSS feeds (with their many uses) are enjoying increasingly mainstream usage.

Basically, the trend is that more people are more interested in getting the content they want delivered to them wherever they prefer to be, rather than having to make a special “trip” online to someone’s site. And they’re using lots of popular tools to do just that.

Reader Steve Sergeant (of The Wildebeat, a great podcast) responded with a perspective I’ve heard often. He said:

“I agree that this is true for the bleeding-edge, early adopters, among which I count myself. …But in my experience, the average news consumer and person with a non-media job often has no idea what an RSS reader or aggregator is. Sure, an adventuresome few have discovered iTunes for podcasts or some server-side aggregator, like My Yahoo.”

While it may be true that most net users aren’t yet using feeds (or perhaps most of them are, I just haven’t found current statistics on that), earlier research and current trends indicate that feeds may have already grown far more popular than conventional wisdom might lead us to assume.

Furthermore, I think general ignorance of the key role that feeds play in supporting many of today’s most popular online-media services and experiences may be causing significant harm — especially to journalism, and thus to democracy and other forms of self-determination.

Sounds extreme, I know. Hear me out…

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Web 3.0: Patchwork Quilt of Viral Online Applications, Says Google CEO

OK, excuse me for delving into buzzwords here, but this is actually potentially important. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently spoke at the Seoul Digital Forum. Someone asked him about what his vision of “Web 3.0” might be. Here’s his reply:

The bottom line is that he predicts the software we use will not be something packaged that we buy, but rather something we cobble together from modular components available online that get recommended to us by communities. This could have a lot of implications for flexibility, customization, security, and speed.

Makes me think of how I use the Firefox web browser right now. I couldn’t do my work without my Firefox add-ons. And yes, GTDinbox is quickly proving indispensable to me for managing tasks.

Thanks to Amy Webb for the tip.