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Southern Religion

Mis-outed anonyblogger

Had the New York Times been able to call in the Jacksonville, Fla., sheriff’s department to do the job, it would most assuredly not have mis-outed the anonymous author (or authors) of the NYTPicker blog.

They then compounded the error by deleting the offending blog entry, even though copies of the text had already traveled the online world an could not be recovered [Copy here].

Who cares? We do, although we mostly agree with Zachary M. Seward at Nieman Journalism Lab:

To be honest, I don’t really care who the NYTPicker is. The site’s Twitter feed has denied the Times’ aborted report, and they’ll no doubt have something to say about the ethics of pulling a post. I just think this is a lesson that removing content from the web is a futile task, particularly for big news sites. And if a story needs to be retracted, if that’s the case here (update: it is), then we need better ways to do it than just pulling content off the web.

There remains a lingering question:

Why did write the story at all?

The author does perform a service, although having your glaring errors regularly reported to the world may not feel like a services to those who err. Thus attempting to report the author’s identity has the scent of revenge about it. And basing the failed revelation on an anonymous source, without securing appropriate confirmation before reporting, is both overeager and bad reporting.

Bad as all that is for The Times’ reputation, it isn’t manipulation of a law enforcement agency and trampling of available legal standards to unmask a critic.

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September 9, 2009 - Posted by | Publications, Religion, WWW |

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