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September 6, 2003

Grinding the Debunking Axe

Posted by Mike on September 6, 2003 6:24 PM

Update (9/8/03): Barbara Mikkelson of Snopes graciously admitted to her error and apologized to Michael Moore. I continue to hope that Snopes will adopt a more transparent editorial approach, though. Transparency because it builds trust trumps confession because you've been caught.

For a site that prides itself on scolding people with axes to grind and how they sully a world of pure, useful information, Snopes seems to have been caught trying to redact its own axe-grinding in a less than honorable fashion. Lots of links abound, but just start with Ed and work your way from there, hopefully getting to where it all started on Tom Tomorrow's blog.

It would have been nice if Snopes' editors had just decided to make their editorial process more transparent instead of spading dirt over what they got wrong and resorting to hair-splitting to get more right than they initially did. It's the web, y'all: paper and ink are unlimited enough to make all the corrections you need.

NetNewsWire showing revisions in a Yahoo! News item

And while we're on that, I have to make yet another pro-NetNewsWire post. Its latest version includes tracking differences to RSS items and presenting them. (Click the illustration above to see it full-sized.) This particular feature gives the reader an opportunity to experience the editorial process at outlets like Yahoo! News in all its glory. The example I caught today, for instance, is a fine example of the sort of softening that goes on with a lot of leads and summaries over a story's life cycle.

It's reminiscent of WinerWatch, a fun little hack Mark Pilgrim inflicted on Dave Winer, who's apparently unable to take ten deep breaths before posting and who, subsequently, ends up revising a lot of his more inflammatory copy into oblivion, where he can't be held responsible for it.