NYT Edits 100% of Article About Israeli Elections

I’ve always found it deeply troubling that online news sources are increasingly making changes to articles in real time, sometimes without notification or warning. I read WaPo online, and sometimes I come across innocuous edits here and there, but occasionally I’ll come across a whopper of an edit, and seemingly no indication that it was edited.

So I wasn’t exactly surprised when I discovered that [the NYT changed the entire outlook and analysis of an article][1].

From [Mondoweiss][2],

On March 17, the day of the 2015 Israel election, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned Jewish Israelis that Arabs were voting “in droves” (alleging, in a conspiratorial manner reminiscent of white supremacists in the US Jim Crow South, that “Left-wing organizations are busing them out”). Second-class Palestinian citizens voting is supposed to be a very bad thing in Israeli democracy.

The New York Times published an article about the incident—and more generally about Netanyahu’s bigoted, jingoistic, far-right tactics to attract more votes—titled “Netanyahu Expresses Alarm That Arab Voter Turnout Could Help Unseat Him.” The piece was written by Isabel Kershner and Rick Gladstone. At least, for the moment, that was the case. Several hours later, the NYT published a rewrite of the article—a rewrite not just of parts of it, but of all of it. According the the website NewsDiffs which tracks edits to “highly-placed articles on online news sites,” between 5:13 pm and 9:08 pm on March 17 100% of the article was re-written to mostly erase the focus on Netanyahu’s racism.

I follow the news in that part of the world fairly closely, and this morning, people were lauding the article, and it’s interesting to see that article shift completely in tone and conclusion over the course of a single day. I generally tend to think the NYT is better than that. I guess not.
[1]: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/03/published-netanyahus-rewrote
[2]: http://mondoweiss.net


This one is less egregious, but kinda weird.

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That’s an odd one. I mean nothing was really changed besides order, and the prominence of achievements. But I think the final edit is probably the better of the two.

I mean on the one hand “made killer beef stroganoff” on the other hand “First woman rocket scientist in the US, as well as being honored with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation”

I know what I’d want as the headline. But still, these realtime edits without corrections notes is really icky.


BBC News does a version of this. The publish the same article with changes over time, changing the name so it appears to be a different article, even when it’s 97% the same. I think it serves to increase their publishing count and make it seem like more “relevant” work is being published. Add a few sentences, and it becomes a “new” article. Sometimes these include more substantial changes, including errata, editorial drift, and commentaries.

They also like putting individual sentences out there separately, as whole paragraphs.

The NYT one really does like it ran afoul of somebody though.


Since it’s an obit, I feel like it’s more okay, especially if the family wanted to change the phrasing a bit. It’s not quite the same as hard news, which is why I feel it’s less egregious.

So I’m going to rant for a second: Why is this okay? I feel like the reason news orgs do it is because no one is making a stink, but I think it’s high time to make one. I think that the NYPD edits of Wikipedia have taught us anything, it’s that reality is fragile. Everything is subject to framing and spin. News organizations need to be more transparent about this practice. I don’t care if they don’t let us know about every undotted T and uncrossed I that they’ve fixed. I get it, typos happen, and frankly I’m not sure anyone gives two shits.

But when major changes are made to a news story I linked to and marked as “must-read,” I expect a certain level of responsibility to the readers of the original article. I, as someone driving traffic to their site, and presumably giving them page impressions, have a right not to have the rug pulled from under me. In this case, they took what I thought was a good article, that people should read, and turned into a ho-hum unbrave dud that I don’t care to link to. All under my nose. I can’t monitor links hours by hour to see if they’ve changed, I need to trust that the documents will be there as I read them. If they really want to make changes, they need to have a way of being held accountable for those changes that isn’t a third-party website.


What you did there: I saw it.


It isn’t okay, I think it’s horrific. When factual accounts are only another product in the marketplace, then they get changed to either more palatable facts, or changed to sell somebody’s ideology.

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