> “We are guided by a newsroom policy that says it is inappropriate to remove content from our Website. If a report is inaccurate, we will correct it and state why it has been altered. If relevant new information emerges, we will update or do a follow-up story.
> “But our content is a matter of public record and is part of our contract with our audience. To simply remove it from the archive diminishes transparency and trust and, in effect, erases history. This is not a practice engaged in by credible news organizations or in line with ethical journalism.”
The guidance you cite is a suggested response to third parties asking to remove embarrassing information from the Internet. It doesn't apply in this case; the story was retracted not because it was embarrassing, but because the reporting did not meet their standards of fairness.
I'd like this a little better if they had some way to access the old material in a fashion that made it clear it was withdrawn. But I think this is way better than just leaving the old story up in a form that might be harmful to people. I'm strongly influenced here by Wikipedia's "Biographies of Living Persons" standard, which is much stricter than that for articles on other topics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Biographies_of_livin...
For those curious, the Wayback link is here: https://web.archive.org/web/*/https://www.npr.org/2018/04/03...
Edit: Actually, user Buge found the real archive link here: https://web.archive.org/web/20180403204501/https://www.npr.o...
1. Leave the story unchanged
2. Publicly retract the story, but keep the text available with a disclaimer.
3. Publicly retract the story and "unpublish" it, i.e., remove the text from the website.
4. Silently unpublish the story.
Everyone agrees that #1 and #4 are very bad. ColanR is claiming that #2 is better than #3, and in particular that #3 conflicts with existing NPR policy. We are inferring NPR policy from an informal blog post, not some official document, which was written in the context of third parties requesting that content be taken down. However, it is quoting an AP Editor policy that is not in that context.
You can argue that NPR didn't intend to endorse this policy in the context when they were the ones who messed up, rather than it being a complaint involving a third party. But then it seems rather hypocritical.
So you can have option 3.5 and keep it published with names removed to protect the "could be innocent" or retract the entire story as they've done.
But also wanted to add another option between 2 and 3 where I feel a more valuable editing could also be done.
2.1: Publicly retract the story, and edit the previous text (with visible or not removals/edits) along with a disclaimer, to improve the content and present a fairness assessment of it's text for new and previous readers.
I've encountered this before, with both visible (highlighted or striked off content) or completely deleted parts with some "erroneous/unverified content deleted" kind of indication, and I really appreciated the transparency an understanding why something was reviewed.
I feel that would be a valuable approach to these kinds of publications.
No one is repeating it like it were true, but the man's reputation is harmed and he could sue. Maybe he did sue in fact.
It's pretty dubious to take that quote completely out of context and apply it to a different context.
Why should we accept your claim that the policy "is more general than that"? Just pointing back to the out-of-context quote does literally nothing to back that claim up.
I'll just note, what they did passes the sniff test... if you forget about interpretations of their policies, how they handled the retraction looks strongly ethical to me.
It seems likely you're simply misunderstanding their policies, doesn't it?
But don't you agree that it would increase transparency to leave the original text available on the website with a large disclaimer that the story was retracted and NPR no longer endorses the text?
Damage has already been done, since it appears that retractions have limited effect, if any. But removing the bad story at least means new people won’t stumble across it and be misled.
It’s a balance and personally, I think they made the right choice.
If it were me, I’d feel better if there was an indirect and obscure way to retrieve the original story. Perhaps in this case there’s an archive that severs the purpose? If so, great. Of course it would be much better if no mistake had been made, but sooner or later mistakes are always made. You only find out the character of a person or organization by how often mistakes are made and what the reaction is.
If so, then we are evolving into two Nets, the searchable one and the - what? - one you have to follow links into? Links with grave warnings on them?
I'm not sure this is entirely bad but it's weird. Will we also have pirate offshore search engines that ignore robots.txt and refuse to deindex?
Also see: the internet archive of things they aren't allowed to show because of robots.txt
But they can't do that, after the newspaper is printed you can find a copy of it with the original story, likely at the library. Similarly, copies of this story are still available online, just not on the NPR page. The equivalence of your suggestion in a newspaper would be their printing the entire story again in the next edition with a retraction, and I assume you could see how that could cause confusion.
This only prevents them from giving outright false summaries. It does not prevent them from casting things in a more favorable light. Only a tiny subset of readers will use the library or archive.org, and they won't be able to say NPR lied.
> The equivalence of your suggestion in a newspaper would be their printing the entire story again in the next edition with a retraction
This would only be fully equivalent if the pre-digital newspaper printed every story in their archives every day. The closest analogy that exists is [new content]=[today's print paper] and [online archives]=[previous print newspapers]
That said, the online archives don't have a perfect analog in the pre-digital world. But importantly, they are simply not meant to represent a collection of only true statements. They are rather a record of what was said when. Note, for instance, that newspapers do not expunge from their online archives all stories that end up having false statements or implications through no fault of the newspaper (e.g., government officials lied or criminal convictions were overturned). Retraction is about admitting journalistic fault for the record.
Now, we can separately make arguments that individuals should be able to have false negative information about themselves removed from (easy) public access, a la the right to be forgotten. (In the current case, this could be accomplished by simply censoring the name of the subject of the article while preserving the rest of the text.) But this is a completely separate justification (which unavoidably pits the rights of the individual to not be defamed against the rights of the public to be informed) from the argument that all retracted stories (even those that defame no one) should be expunged from the online archives.
This is the state of things, huge errors in headline stories are retracted in the following issue with merely a line saying they were wrong. There have been examples of people getting an innocent verdict incorrectly labeled guilty in the story. If transparency is your goal, the story calling them guilty should be reprinted with corrections noted. That would be more transparent, but would not be beneficial to anyone.
>that all retracted stories (even those that defame no one) should be expunged from the online archives.
Again, I do not wish the story expunged from online archives, and it does not appear NPR is doing anything like this. Removing it from their personal archive is a different matter. Leaving it up provides more transparency, but provides no benefit. The error made is clear enough in the retraction, suspicious parties can still see their full error should they want to, and their erroneous story is not causing additional issues by being spread.
This system can absolutely be abused, but as the archive exists it would be easy to tell when it was. Your proposed change allows for a different kind of abuse, also easy to detect, and opens the door for confusion to cause issues. Hell, the only positive you can name is it allows people to easily judge mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, they need to be judged for their malicious actions, which is still possible in this system.
I agree, this is the state of things for most newspapers (which I'm criticizing), but not, for example, for science journals.
> If transparency is your goal, the story calling them guilty should be reprinted with corrections noted.
Again, that would be sensible only if the entire archives were reprinted each day. There are economic limitations for print newspapers that make this infeasible. But if it were the case that print newspapers could feasibly re-printed their entire archives each day, then yes, I endorse them leaving the disclaimed erroneous story in those archives, to be re-printed each day.
That's not the same thing as re-printing the disclaimed erroneous story on the front page.
> >that all retracted stories (even those that defame no one) should be expunged from the online archives.
> Again, I do not wish the story expunged from online archives, and it does not appear NPR is doing anything like this. Removing it from their personal archive is a different matter.
Sorry I wasn't clear. When I write "online archives", I mean NPR's online archives. I am not talking about archive.org or similar.
> suspicious parties can still see their full error should they want to
I would agree that this was the case if the majority of internet users knew what archive.org is. In fact, I bet that less (probably much less) than 5% do. Thus they are effectively hiding the erroneous story from almost the entire readership.
it's one of the most basic things in our profession, that we gather responses from the people who are the subject of criticism
the reporter... did not seek comment from the individual identified in the story
NPR learned of the mistake via an email from someone who said he was representing the person NPR had identified as the "author."
At this point you might expect a correction with the new information from the third party added to the original story, but that won't work here.
In order to fix the problems, we would have essentially had to construct a different story," a process that he said would have been "intellectually dishonest. There comes a point that you can't fix a story appropriately
By analogy, sometimes the best thing to do is roll back code instead of trying to fix it.
Furthermore, the best policy would be to retain a complete edit history of the story online, which is obviously possible even if the entire story is retracted. Given that the edit history would include a clear statement that NPR no longer endorses the claims made there, I can't see a reason for not making the edit history public other than reducing embarrassment of NPR.
That said, NPR is far from the only major news organization that declines to keep the edit history public.
The point is very simple: removal != retraction. Removing without retraction is erasing history. Issuing a retraction is not erasing history.
And obviously, in this context, "erasing history" means the thing it means in standard vernacular English. Not the thing it means in git terminology.
> Furthermore, the best policy would be to retain a complete edit history of the story online... I can't see a reason for not making the edit history public other than reducing embarrassment of NPR.
1. How does showing the edit history reduce embarrassment to NPR?
(e: Ironically, if reducing embarrassment were their goal, they would've found a way to keep the story as in-tact as possible. "Look, we weren't 100% wrong. We just had to change a few paragraphs". IMO a full retraction is far more embarrassing than trying to weasel out of it by keeping as much of the story in-tact as possible.)
2. Some real downsides to this approach are already debated down-thread.
Exactly. NPR should retract the story -- that is, admit mistake and add a clear statement that they do not endorse it -- but they should not remove the text from the internet. The policy ColanR quotes says content should not be removed, and everyone agrees that content can be retracted.
> Removing without retraction is erasing history. Issuing a retraction is not erasing history.
But issuing a retraction and and removing the text is (an attempt to) erase history in standard vernacular English, i.e. make it difficult for others to figure out what happened in the past by hiding evidence. It's true that silently removing the story is even worse, because it erases the history of the article's existence rather than just erasing the history of the article's content.
> 1. How does showing the edit history reduce embarrassment to NPR?
You misunderstand my claim. Showing the edit history would increase embarrassment for NPR.
> Ironically, if reducing embarrassment were their goal, they would've found a way to keep the story as in-tact as possible.
This is not true if the error was so egregious that it couldn't be defended with a straight face. Given the constraint that the story must be retracted (i.e., un-endorsed), it is clearly more embarrassing for them to leave the retracted text online than to remove it from the website.
> IMO a full retraction is far more embarrassing than trying to weasel out of it by keeping as much of the story in-tact as possible
You misunderstand. None of us think they should weaseling out of it. I am comparing what they have done to the better procedure of (1) retracting the story (in the sense of declaring that it is flawed and not defensible) but (2) leaving the text of the story publicly available with a disclaimer.
> 2. Some real downsides to this approach are already debated down-thread
This thread has dozens and dozens of comments, many of which are flawed, and I'm not sure what you're referring to.
The best thing for both parties is to remove the original text and post a retraction notice explaining what used to be there and why it’s now gone.
I'm a native speaker of English and I'm not sure what that means.
I think the salient point is that there's a huge difference between a silent removal and a public retraction. The practices that NPR indicts in your original post obviously refer to the latter. Removing without retraction is certainly an attempt to "erase history". Publishing a public retraction and discussing it at length is not "erasing history".
NPR's executives have even explained why, in this particular case, they chose to remove the article: Turpin said, "In order to fix the problems, we would have essentially had to construct a different story," a process that he said would have been "intellectually dishonest. There comes a point that you can't fix a story appropriately." He said the decision was not made lightly; "we believe strongly we don't want to disappear material for any reason if we can possibly keep from taking it down."
edit: Essentially it's the difference between a ghost edit and an "edit: I changed xyz in my post". Do you really believe that silently /dev/null'ing an article is equivalent to a public retraction?
Either this is a rare corner case in journalistic ethics that could be handled a few different ways or there's simply some disagreement in the profession (and among NPR staff) about how to deal with it. Regardless, the comments below characterizing NPR's retraction of a shoddy story as "Orwellian" are... entertaining, I guess? If only they'd save us from the tyranny of the state by relaxing their professional standards a bit.
Shoddy journalists would respond by doubling down. Attacking the people who question the original story, producing concurring stories and publishing them on sister sites, and then citing those stories in followup stories on your own site. Pushing the narrative and ignoring the truth at all costs.
Of course, I agree with most HN readers that the most transparent, ethical, and self-consistent policy is to keep a complete edit history of the story available.
> Because they have an interesting article  disallowed in their robots.txt that was added a while after it was published.
Oddly, it's a different seemingly benign story for me:
There are clearly at least a few different problems going on here in NPR and the general workflow of top-tier journalism today. If you can publish a story, you shouldn't just be able to retract it willy nilly. If you can retract anything you publish, then what's the point of having standards for publication in the first place?
Wow, both archive.org and archive.is' oldest snapshots are of a notice that the story is hidden pending editorial review. NPR may have purged this from the Internet pretty darn well.
Makes me wonder who really called them about it.
EDIT: rightos managed to find the original story on the archive.is page from another website: https://archive.is/QxQtZ
Generally a retraction is in the form of a note that the top, not attempting to purge a story from existence over a minor technicality.
According to the retraction note, this was not a minor technicality. The reporter failed to talk to the other party in this story (the purported author of the malicious website) and apparently mischaracterized the nature of the website.
This is not true. Retraction means you withdraw endorsement of the story and cease to publish new copies of it. It does not mean you pull it from view. Likewise, retracted scientific papers are not expunged from the websites of scientific journals. See for instance this:
You can tell infer that this is the correct use of the term "retract" because daily newspapers retracted stories long before the internet, when it was obviously impossible for them to do anything besides removing endorsement and admitting error.
Paper newspapers had no physical way of doing the latter without literally pulling every copy in existence, which would be impossible once it's been released (as you also pointed out). Because of that, you can't really infer the correct use of the term based off what they did. Furthermore, languages evolve, so even if that was the only "correct" use of the term back then does not mean it's also the only use today.
the action of drawing something back or back in.
"prey are grasped between the jaws upon tongue retraction"
a withdrawal of a statement, accusation, or undertaking.
"he issued a retraction of his allegations"
In traditioal practice, it means "Adding a Retraction tag". In CS terms, it's a soft-delete.
For a very famous example:
There is a big difference between trying to get accurate or false information removed from the web.
Joy Ann Reid is recently in hot water for lying about hackers inserting homophobic blog posts in to the archive.org record of her old blog. She has now requested that archive.org stop serving archives of this blog.
I wonder how frequently mainstream media scrubs old version of stories from archive sites.
Don't erase your mistakes - own up to them.
Doesn't mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater, but we should hold journalists to a high standard - journalistic standards have weakened in the past decade with the rise of clickbait and promoting partisan editorials as news.
If you can’t, don’t pretend to.
>"We are guided by a newsroom policy that says it is inappropriate to remove content from our Website. If a report is inaccurate, we will correct it and state why it has been altered. If relevant new information emerges, we will update or do a follow-up story. But our content is a matter of public record and is part of our contract with our audience. To simply remove it from the archive diminishes transparency and trust and, in effect, erases history. This is not a practice engaged in by credible news organizations or in line with ethical journalism."
 - http://ethics.npr.org/memos-from-memmott/how-to-explain-why-...
I got the original URL from the original HN post https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16752468
Some recent notable examples of retractions; in all cases, the story was completely pulled:
Why? Do you think anyone is at risk of not noticing the huge warnings on each page? What is the point of erasing the text?
Many people held up this story as a justification for the "right to be forgotten", but if it turns out that even a respected news agency can't figure out whether censorship was justified in this case, I think it rather supports the case against censorship.
Besides being a one-sided story, it's also obvious PR for Ervine's new company, which is dutifully linked at the end of the story.
Secondly, the story presents Ervine as the heroic protagonist. An interesting choice for someone that turned in his middle-eastern clients to the FBI because they took a cab and didn't talk like typical rich people. Ervine's response to this is to hand over all of his client's private information to the FBI, without a warrant, after which his client is jailed and deported.
So he suspected someone was breaking the law and reported them to the appropriate authorities? Or are citizens supposed to always cover for criminals unless and until the government gets a warrant?
He ended up being correct, but that’s posthoc justification.
The private citizens rights to seize property, turn it over to LEOs, report someone, conduct a search, do not change if they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. So, if I'm your boss and can legally read your emails, I can just turn them over to the law enforcement agencies no question asked – they're "my" emails after all.
EDIT: /s It ended up he was right, but maybe he had no reason to actually know they were cons. We don't have the full story, which is exactly why it has been retracted.
I dare you to call the FBI the next time you have a business disagreement. You won't even get past the phone bank.
I have a friend of humble means who, in response to an incident, filed a police report, sent copies to the public e-mail addresses of our state's responsible regulators and then packaged that correspondence and sent it to a field office's public mailing address. The response was quick, courteous and effective.
You're launching baseless conjecture.
Mostly, though, search your recollection: have you ever heard of anyone who isn't really wealthy doing what Ervine is reported to have done?
It sounds like they tried to get the other side of the story and got nowhere. Makes sense given that, if the NPR story is even generally accurate, it is not in the other side's interest to corroborate it (they are accused of slander). And given that the other side is geographically pretty far away from the US, it could be hard to get anything solid.
> someone who said he was representing the person NPR had identified as the "author" [of the purportedly slanderous website]
and then they retracted it. (https://www.npr.org/sections/ombudsman/2018/04/12/601650762/...)
So making censorship acceptable is pretty dangerous. It just favours whoever is currently in a position of power.
And I tend to think it's counterproductive to censor ideas. You can't stop people from believing them, and trying to censor them can increase divisions between groups. Argument and education seem better approaches in general.
My hope is to persuade others that the initial idea is false and/or harmful, not to prevent others from hearing the bad idea.
If I succeed, the bad idea still exists, but others can understand why the idea is bad and recognize similarly bad ideas in the future.
If you simply censor the bad idea, at least two bad things happen as a consequence: 1) the bad idea is not refuted, and so is likely to be reintroduced later with fewer people who understand why it is a bad idea; and 2) the person who originated the bad idea does not have any reason to change their mind, but rather is more likely to resent being censored and so hold that bad idea more tenaciously and attempt to spread it more surreptitiously.
I am frankly frightened by this relatively recent promotion of the idea that preventing the public utterance of bad ideas and distasteful speech is good for society. Based on my understanding of history, it is, in fact, a precursor to totalitarian society.
Specifically, under the condition where the debate actually matters, your compulsion can be exploited by putting out any number of variedly wrong ideas, for which you pay an asymmetrically higher cost to refute, and an opportunity cost of not being able to present ideas of your own.
The debate can this way be framed to either never reach "consensus", or to do so at the counterparty's favored position.
The widespread use of this strategy is a reason why society is falling back on censorship as opposed to reason.
So instead you'd prefer if they had kept the original article but added after each sentence "except it probably didn't happen that way"?
>I am frankly frightened by this relatively recent promotion of the idea that preventing the public utterance of bad ideas and distasteful speech is good for society.
There's nothing recent about that, it's as old as humanity itself. Every culture has its taboos and its sacred cows. I don't think there's any society where you could say absolutely anything you want and stay out of trouble. The USA is extremely permissive but there's still slander, libel and hate speech at the very least. In most countries in the EU it's forbidden to be a nazi, that's an opinion you're simply not allowed to have.
I was responding to the statement that bad ideas should be censored, not to the actions taken by NPR. I actually agree that NPR did the right thing by retracting the false information. That is a very different thing from censoring bad ideas. So yes, the thread derailed off into the swamp and here we sit on the wreckage.
> In most countries in the EU it's forbidden to be a nazi, that's an opinion you're simply not allowed to have.
Yes, I know. I studied Nazism in depth during my undergrad years while earning a history degree. I still recall being nauseated for an entire semester because of the material in one particular course, in fact. The downside of restricting political thought is that those who create the restrictions generally become tyrants themselves.
If you think that NPR shouldn't have made the original story unavailable I see your point but I really fail to see how that's censorship, especially when they pinpoint precisely why they did it and how exceptional it is.
...this is a retraction?
Jeffery Ervine is now the president of Bridgit.com which... Well, even after looking at the site it's not clear to me what they do. It kind of sounds like they work with schools to combat bullying and there's a page on the site covering the same material as the NPR piece. But the NPR piece does end up spending a lot of time on Ervine and the story wraps up with a plug for his new company.
Without more information from NPR, my first thought is that Ervine mis-represented his story in an attempt to drum-up publicity for his new company and NPR was sufficiently embarrassed that they have removed the story from their site. Bu that's just me guessing, since this retraction has practically no useful information.
2. start a company that offers a $50 form submission for $50k. a killer deal based on lies from #1
I'm holding back on the kudos for NPR's editorial accountability until we get some context.
The subject of that story was a hedge fund guy who didn't like the search results appearing for his name and the legal expenses that went into trying to change them, the piece was sympathetic to him and it was framed as a story about 'net privacy and the lack of regulation around it, but of course it wasn't about privacy it was about censorship, two concepts that are too often conflated nowadays what with publications falling all over themselves trying to extol EU regulations.
The bottom line is that the so called "right to be forgotten" is as nonsensical an expression as it is a policy.
Freedom of speech, and its implementation by the Supreme Court in the US, makes this kind of legislation impossible.
There are trade offs. Even if you can afford to get your criminal record expunged, data collection firms can still hold a copy of your record while it was public; so it can still show up on some background checks.
We need to move away from the stigma of lifetime labels more than we need to be able to erase the past.
Background checks on the other hand are serving their intended purpose, telling you exactly what someone's background is.
I think there's an argument in favor of requiring criminal background checks for employment to be run through bureaus that have a legal requirement to drop certain offenses off the report after a certain amount of time. The offender has repaid their debt to society through the punishment meted out by the court, there is no point in making them unemployable for the rest of their lives.
For example you might get laid off during an economic downturn and not be able to find a new job in time to avoid missing payments. A few years later, when you have gotten back on your feet and caught up on everything, there is not much reason to believe that you are a bad credit risk.
Or maybe you don't appreciate how big an impact high interest rates on credit cards can have when you carry a large balance. You can easily learn from this and not make that mistake again.
If short, as you note people can change, and in the case of bad debt there is a good chance that they have done so after a few years. And if they haven't, they will probably have newer bad debt on their credit report to take the place of the expired items.
Compare to a very serious crime, such as child molestation. You don't do that because of bad luck or poor judgment. To do that you have to be seriously broken mentally, and modern medicine does not yet know how to fix that level of broken. You are very likely as dangerous 30 years from now as you are today.
In short, except in rare cases the people who do these kind of crimes do not change. They just learn to be more careful to avoid getting caught.
I'm talking about things like petty theft, drug possession/petty trafficking, and impaired driving. Those are crimes that people can change from.
TRTBF is closer to regulating the latter.
The trouble with court records is that they are public, and for good reason (the justice system needs to be transparent). Unfortunately, the internet has made what used to be a process with a significant barrier to entry (a manual court records search) into a simple google search. The problem is exacerbated by extortionists who post mugshots (many of people who have their charges dropped) and charge a fee to remove them . Regulation which enforces some level of right to be forgotten may be a solution.
I signed in (been years) to comment. Bravo! I could not agree more. People can change.
We enjoy great constitutional protection to publish, unless it's copyright violation or you're revealing the allied plan for the normandy invasion no court will rule against you.
Glad to hear that the ombudsman raised the same issue I am raising here.
There's an interesting tension between this argument and the ostensible topic of the original story, "the right to be forgotten".  Does Ervine really have a right to see that personal criticisms of his conduct are removed from the Google? Does the person who criticized him have a right to see a one-sided account of his life removed from NPR? I almost admire NPR enough to suspect that they're doing all this as an exercise in ironic criticism (which the ombudsman linked elsewhere attempts to lampshade), but I can't quite get there.
 "Ostensible" because the original was mostly a clumsy, credulous submarine for a toxic rich dude's latest scam venture, along with some additional knife-twisting on some poor immigrant the rich dude had gotten sentenced to federal prison.
Because once published, you must stand by what you published. Accept your mistake. Put a big notice on it saying how sorry you are and how much more careful you will be in future. Hiding it is running from it.
> If it's better from the perspective of journalism, does that conflict with what's better from the perspective of not being sued?
It's all about how much these "journalists" respect their own profession. If I commit a horrible bug, I don't go and purge it from github using --force. I leave it there as a reminder and acceptance of my mistake.
As it stands now, anyone who doesn't happen to catch this will have no way of finding out in the future that the story they read may have been partially or wholly false.
I don't like the idea of erasing history this way.
Yes some professions have bigger consequences for mistakes. If you can't deal with it go do something else. Not an excuse for covering up your mistake. This is downright Orwellian.
Second, a "cover-up" is when you hide evidence of your past misconduct. Pleading guilty in public is in every possible way the literal opposite of covering something up. If they'd just deleted the article with no commentary at all, that's covering up the mistake. Leaving the original URL up with a notice that they erred in publishing the original story isn't.
Besides, it very may well have been demanded by their legal department to avoid any repercussions from the mischaracterized party.
By presenting us the full-picture, we can potentially guard ourselves in the future.
> Editor's note on April 11, 2018: NPR has retracted the story that was previously on this page because it did not meet our standards. "Fairness" is one of our guiding principles, and to that end we have pledged to "make every effort to gather responses from those who are the subjects of criticism." In this instance, that did not happen.
So how does this not count as owning up to mistakes and accepting responsibility?
Your analogy with a git commit/`push --force` is flawed. In software, the end user is not at risk (without much deliberative effort) of running the buggy commit. In journalism, the article content is the actual end user product, and grievously erroneous content causes actual harm. Moreover, the mistakes that NPR admits to making were not just a "buggy" commit. It was the equivalent of checking in malware from the very first commit.
Perhaps redact some of the original to avoid legal issues. That makes sense.
Welcome to the age of "the un-article"?
That aside, I'm surprised / disappointed there's not a better CMS to handle such things. Couldn't / shouldn't - within reason - news articles be more fluid, in the sense time exposes more facts, etc.? The static story model made sense for print. There was no other choice. I would think technology could do better at this point.
On nytimes, sometimes you get a note at the bottom of a web article "This article, with slightly different text, was published on page X of the Y print edition." I can't find an example now so that's paraphrasing from memory.
Removing something from search engine result pages but not from archives seems like a middle ground that media organizations might consider when people say "I regret having talked on the record about this, can you remove it?" or when they say "hey, this is hurting my reputation and it's not a big deal, can you please make it harder to find?".
I used to periodically poll The Harvard Crimson's robots.txt which until a 2015 site redesign used to exclude a lot of articles from search engine results. One example of an article excluded from search engine results for several years was http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2006/10/31/news-in-brief-s... , which also carries a lengthy editor's note with more info about the final disposition of the case and which I think I can see why the article subject might not want to affect their reputation.
Among the other things that the Crimson's web site excluded from search results included -- drug arrest stories where the final disposition was "not guilty" and the final article was not hidden (but the original arrest and intermediate reporting were); some deeply personal sex columns; maybe an unruly party story; a story about a grad student being rude at a football game.
I wasn't always able to find the articles -- one older piece of content, article id 523203 in their old-style format, was probably published in the print edition on 22 April 2008 based on the publication dates of article ids 523202 and 523204.
The Crimson seems to have stopped doing this and most media organizations don't do it; while excluding an article from robots.txt usually makes users' search engine results calm down, sometimes it can have the opposite effect by broadcasting exactly what in the archives people do not want to be seen.
As an aside, I'm an enthusiastic reader of the Economist: it seems as if subscriptions are better incentives than clicks for journalists by reducing pressure to generate clickable headlines appealing to baser instincts. Sadly, fewer and fewer publications will survive. BTW - the Washington Post's news content has gotten a lot better under Bezos. I scan it every day now.
> an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : prejudice
> systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others
The first one implies falsehood. In that the data itself is prejudiced.
The second one is manipulative of the truth. Which you could argue also makes it false, since you have a falsely representative sample, where you claim not too. Thus you are lying to the reader, because you know things you don't want to tell me, since they would change the outcome, and disprove your prejudice.
So I feel your statement is only true, in that you can claim all samples, even massive ones, are naturally biased, and only an omnipotent creature that would know 100% of all the variables could be unbiased.
But that seems counter productive to me. We're not looking for absolute truth, but statical truthyness.
If an editorial presents all the data the author is aware of. And the author did reasonable due diligence to find most of the data availaible on the matter. Then its a truthful and unbiased editorial. Which allows you to make your own conclusions.
Saying all editorial is biased is dismissive, and it enforces the notion that, you'll never know the truth, thus just keep believing in your prejudice, they're as good as anytjing else. Which is false, statically, your prejudice is less likely to be true.
Let me give you an example (hopefully avoiding a debate on the topic): are pit pulls more dangerous than other dogs? First to be clear, I have no dog in the race (ha-ha). Local newspapers write stories covering dog attacks, mentioning the dogs were pitbulls. My friend who does pit bull dog rescue points out that papers only cover pitbull attacks, and never attacks by other breeds. By only covering pitbull attacks, editors and writers have biased the general public. At this point, I don't know the truth: are pit bulls more dangerous? Do editors consider writing stories about attacks by other breeds at all?
Consider a few headlines:
> "Trump Embroiled in Battle with Mueller"
This gives the impression both parties are at odds. It gives the impression that the battle is fierce and ever-present on both parties' minds.
> "Trump Shrugs Off Partisan Attacks"
This gives the impression that the probe is no big deal to Trump and just standard political maneuvering from one side.
> "White House counsel, Mueller Meet on Russia Inquiry
States the facts of the story. Doesn't really imply anything.
All three headlines can be true simultaneously.
"Hannity: Mueller's investigators are partisan hacks" 
Sure, maybe Fox isn't "serious", and maybe Hannity isn't the most serious "journalist" on Fox. Still, this is a headline published by a news organization. You don't watch them and I don't watch them, but my grandmother watches them five hours a day, and she isn't the only one.
It is hilariously revealing that you object to the second headline rather than the first. Even if subconsciously, you know you've seen that first headline published by your favored media conglomerate.
Ideally, in this four-quadrant space, most news would stick to the true/neutral space, the others to be avoided as hard as possible. We both know that doesn't happen.
Hyperbole and metaphor have no place in headlines.
How can you independently verify the attacks are partisan? How do we know Trump "shrugged off" the attacks or that Trump is "embroiled in a legal battle". You'd have to ask him and he has every incentive to hide his true feelings!
If you feel my headlines are not good enough then I would encourage you to think creatively and conceive of ways a headline could convey both truth and bias.
How can you independently verify the attacks are partisan?
No news organization would describe the thing in that way because it's not factual. So that's an easy one.
If you feel my headlines are not good enough then I would encourage you to think creatively
I'm not inclined to think creatively to make your bad argument better. It's your job to make your argument not bad.
Can you extract the hyperbole from the fact? It's not terribly difficult to see what is evidently true and what is innuendo.
Even if there were no headlines that matched the ones I wrote, my argument would still be valid. I'm arguing that "truth" is insufficient. A plain presentation of evidence is the only way effective way to combat bias. Though, it is not a panacea.
The metaphor you're referring to is more accurately described as hyperbole.
I find it funny how far people will go to intentionally misunderstand one another. We could have a perfectly reasonable conversation on the merits of cold, impersonal, evidence-based discussion and on the roles of metaphor in speech. But instead we have to play this game where you insist on finding some fault in some argument that I never made. Or pretend when you do see faults that they're "mere uses" of colorful language.
So to put this terrible conversation to rest let me make three points:
1. I like NPR and I'm not in any way attacking them. If you're here just to defend your favorite publication -- you can stop.
2. It doesn't matter if the CNN article was a piece of analysis or reporting. It is disseminated to an audience with the intent to be read as news and because it is an official publication from a news source it is (by dictionary definition) news. Since you seem so obsessed by the designation.
3. My original point "'truth' is not sufficient to eliminate bias" has been left uncontested. It is the only thing worth discussing. You have chosen to focus entirely on fictional headlines meant to help you understand the core point. If the headlines confused you -- I'm sorry (in the most meaningless way possible) -- but you need to improve your reading comprehension before you waste someones time with idle criticisms.
I would encourage you to re-read this comment thread. I have tried now on three separate occasions to get you to understand the core point of the conversation.
Maybe you're at the end of this comment thinking to yourself "Well the news industry seems fine right now. I can't find any headlines to support his claims". I would encourage you to consider: blogs, youtube comments, HN threads, casual conversations, and internal dialogue. What I'm saying (truth is not sufficient to eliminate bias) applies to all aspects of human thinking.
I should have never linked that CNN article. I thought an example would help you understand but its clear to me that it only enables people to misunderstand.
But it isn't. It's a completely ordinary turn of phrase.
It doesn't matter if the CNN article was a piece of analysis or reporting.
That matters an awful lot.
My original point "'truth' is not sufficient to eliminate bias" has been left uncontested.
Sure. I'm contesting your ability to support that point.
Piling on to what others are saying, NPR may be truthful but they certainly tell their story from a pretty specific viewpoint. I find them to be very centrist and pro establishment. When Obama announced new internet surveillance laws under the guise of internet protection, NPR only really shared the views of the bill’s supporters. The EFF and others claimed the bill was harmful rather than helpful, while NPR on their story of the bill only said “critics claim the bill doesn’t go far enough”. If they only share the viewpoints of a bill’s supporters and misrepresent the views of critics, they’re not really representing the truth in my opinion. Similarly on a day after Bernie Sanders’s largest rally of his campaign at the time, when 10,000 people showed up to support him, NPR spent 8 minutes of the newshour on one of Trump’s tweets and various reactions (where they asked different people their opinions and read tweet responses of others), while only briefly mentioning Sanders by saying he had another couple of rallies (but not discussing or analyzing the scale or potential impacts of his campaign).
So before you congratulate yourself for how great your choice media is, consider the ways in which it falls short in serving the public good.
If I really need know something, I will read from a few left and right websites to make my own decisions. After a while I now feel Reuters are close to be unbiased, though I'm not 100% sure still.
»During the 1970s and early 1980s, the majority of NPR funding came from the federal government. Steps were taken during the 1980s to completely wean NPR from government support, but the 1983 funding crisis forced the network to make immediate changes. According to CPB, in 2009 11.3% of the aggregate revenues of all public radio broadcasting stations were funded from federal sources, principally through CPB; in 2012 10.9% of the revenues for Public Radio came from federal sources.«
> "Fairness" is one of our guiding principles, and to that end we have pledged to "make every effort to gather responses from those who are the subjects of criticism." In this instance, that did not happen. The story referred to one individual as the "author" of a website that another person said had posted defamatory information about him. It also described the author's motivation as vindictive. But NPR did not contact the alleged author.
So NPR did NOT contact the author and then described their motivation. It's good that they retracted this article but how many times have they released similar articles with similar total disregard for the truth?
The ombudsman (person?) blames various parties, but (rightly, to astute readers of the retracted story) starts with the reporter, Aarti Shahani. She screwed up, and NPR management aren't sugarcoating that.
HN prides itself on its wisdom and judgement, but we got this one completely wrong too. When the original story appeared, nearly everyone here swallowed every detail of this whopper completely, while the few who didn't (hint: me!) saw their comments downvoted to oblivion.
To unpublish the story may lose some informative and educational value for the public, but since NPR's notice is detailed enough to explain what happened, such value should give way to the protection to the wrongly-indicted site owner.