Guest essay by Leo Goldstein
NY Times regularly revises its articles after publication. The revisions are substantial, undisclosed, and are nothing like real time updates in developing stories. These are regular articles that undergo dramatic changes that appear as if NY Times editors received a commissar’s call stressing the party line and demanding the article matches it exactly, with the NY Times editors dutifully obliging.
I recently stumbled on one of such revisions. Within hours, the description of Scott Pruitt, the newly appointed EPA head, in the NY Times article went from being an “ally of fossil fuel Industry,” to a “climate change dissenter,” to a “climate change denialist.” Later, I was pointed to a helpful website newsdiffs.org. Newsdiffs archives multiple versions of news articles and shows the differences between them. That article has been revised or rewritten at least six times after its original publication, all without any notice to the readers.
On the topic of climate debate, the most prominent rewrite seen is the replacement of the term “climate skeptic” with “climate denialist.” Also witnessed, is the attempt to do some damage control, like replacing “Obama’s new climate change regulations” that reporters probably heard firsthand from government officials, with “Obama’s new clean air regulations.”
Examples, limited to the climate debate
The following article was completely re-written from its original version on January 14-15. Then, on January 18, the sentence, “Obama’s new climate change regulations are driving electric utilities to shut down coal plants,” was rewritten by replacing the term “climate change” with “clean air,” thus becoming: “Obama’s new clean air regulations are driving electric utilities to shut down coal plants”:
Multiple changes, including changing the word Skeptics to Denialists in the title:
The article was revised 14 times:
(By MICHAEL D. SHEAR, JULIE HIRSCHFELD, MAGGIE HABERMAN)
Multiple changes, including in the authorship:
http://newsdiffs.org/article-history/www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/science/earth-highest-temperature-record.html (By JUSTIN GILLIS and JOHN SCHWARTZ)
For example, this link shows multiple changes to the body of the article:
The title was completely re-written:
Another title that was re-written:
Multiple substantial changes:
At the time of this writing, some of these articles are different from their last versions in newsdiffs, and at least one seems similar to the initial version in newsdiffs. Probably newsdiffs monitors the news articles only for short time. Also, NY Times’ website may send different versions of the same article to different readers.
Remember the BBC Scandal in 2008
This brings to mind the well-known BBC scandal, when the BBC changed a published weather-related article to be more climate alarmist after exchanging few emails with Jo Abbess, a climate activist who then gloated about it. (See also JM1 and JM2). One thing that escaped attention: Jo Abbess was active in the local Agenda 21 chapter (Poole Agenda 21) and was connected to other British alarmist organizations. The published email exchange between poor Roger Harrabin and Jo Abbess was just a small part of the pressure and brainwashing campaign that broke the BBC.
Curiously, newsdiffs.org was created with funding from the leftist Knight Foundation largely with the intent to discover content re-writing that’s in favor of conservatives. Newsdiffs.org was covered by the NY Times in 2012. Apparently, NY Times still had some integrity back then. The NY Times has been doing stealthy revising since at least 2015 and seems to increase their frequency and severity after the elections. I will be posting more examples of stealthy content revising and fake news on my site.
Newsdiffs.org monitors only five websites and one cannot easily search in it (I suggest using https://web-beta.archive.org/web/*/newsdiffs.org) but the software is open-sourced and available at https://github.com/ecprice/newsdiffs.
Thanks to H.J. for collaboration in the research and writing this article.
Footnote by Anthony Watts
WUWT occasionally has changes to articles from time to time, and we have a policy on it:
Stories that have been posted may get edited in the first hour after they first appear. Sometimes errors or mistakes (particularly in formatting) aren’t seen until the post is published. If something doesn’t look right and the post is brand-new, try refreshing in a few minutes. Of course, after an hour if something is still wrong, don’t hesitate to leave a comment to point it out.
The main reason for changing of articles at WUWT is spelling and formatting mistakes, and they usually occur within the first hour. Sometimes simple mistakes are made,in the body or in the title, and commenters catch them almost immediately. A good example is in the story New ‘Karl-buster’ paper confirms ‘the pause’, and climate models failure. The word “sleight” was misspelled as “slight”, and that was fixed right away and noted in the comments with thanks to the commenter who spotted it.
Sometimes, there’s errors related [to] title spelling, such as the article: AL.com thinks ‘global warming’ is increasing ticks in Alabama, except it’s cooled over the last century there
I boobed, and typed AI instead of AL originally so I had to fix that. I left a note at the bottom of the article:
Note: about 5 mins after publication, the title was changed to correct a misspelling.
And on occasion, we have a factual error in the article. These are handled via either strikeouts (if the error is multiple words) or as a word or two in [brackets] if it is a simple fix.
We aren’t perfect here at WUWT, nobody who publishes online is, but I try to make sure that fixes are known to the readers.