Have you ever seen yourself at the top of a Google search? It’s pretty cool. Yet there’s a downside if you’ve ever had a negative story printed about you that makes it to the #1 spot on Google – especially if the information is just plain wrong!
Slate has an article by Jack Shafer that takes the New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt to task for suggesting that a newspaper or other news source take responsibility for archived articles that might be rising to the top and creating uninformed impressions when later corrections don’t also show up. Shafer thinks Hoyt is making too much out of the whole thing. But I don’t think so.
To read Shafer’s take on this: Blaming the Times for Your Bad Reputation
But here’s what I think. Hoyt has a point. Words on the Internet take on a power and life that is unlike any other to date. An article from 10 years ago can hold firm at number one, even if there have been retractions printed because the information about someone in the original article was misleading. But we don’t see the retractions at the top of the search unless they are equally as popular as the original Google top dog.
So while I agree with Shafer that these things happen and a newspaper like the New York Times can’t police every item in their archives, I do think there might be a not-too-unwieldy way to help remedy this. While I’m not sure about the technology for the Times’ archives, on my blog I can certainly edit an archived story. I assume they can too. And if that is the case, well why can’t they agree to add a small blurb at the very beginning of the archived article linking to the correction? This way when someone clicks on it, at least both parts of the story are easily available.
Now I wouldn’t put the entire onus on the news source. But there could be an option for a person who is “wronged” to contact them and then, if warranted, the change can be made to the archive. Maybe there could even be a mechanism for alerting Google (or whoever) so they can also update their latest view.
Just some thoughts. Whether my suggestions are technologically the best, I don’t know. But I do know this isn’t a non-issue, as Shafer suggests. We are just at the beginning and there will be centuries of erroneous entries. I believe a workable solution is both possible and worth looking into.