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by on December 12, 2013

I recently read this article by the New York Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan. She talks about  why The Times did not remove a photo, mentioned in this previous article, from their website. At first, I thought “why not get rid of the shot? You have the ability to do so that you don’t with print. Especially one that has caused that much controversy.” As I read on though, Philip B. Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards, made a great point, “except to correct factual errors, we very rarely change or delete published content. The stories that remain accessible through our website constitute our electronic archive of what The Times has actually published, parallel to the print and microfilm versions of our archive that we have always maintained. My colleagues and I frequently receive requests to alter or delete published material from our archive, for a wide range of reasons. We explain that our policy is not to do so. Other than for factual errors, if we routinely went back into a story published days, weeks or years earlier – rewriting, re-editing, adding or deleting photos or other elements – pretty soon our archive would cease to be an archive at all.”

I never thought of it that way, probably because I grew up in the age of the internet and completely forgot about Microfilm. Also because I only ever used microfilm to look up a newspaper article when I was probably in 5th grade. But he makes a great point, if we, as journalists and publishers, take advantage of altering published stories and not keeping them as is, controversy and all, are we even really keeping an archive? Though I agree with the controversy surrounding the photo and that is was a poorly chosen photo for the story, I understand the need to keep it on the website. A newspaper’s website is not just a news source, it’s an archive.  

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