Today In Shitty Online Journalism Ethics: Don’t Do What The Wall Street Journal Just Did

As R-Truth would say: You got got, WSJ.

Alternate post title: Wall Street Journal’s Jason Chow Posts Week-Old Story About Conan/Da Peng, Gets Called Out On It In Comments Section, Revises Post Without Telling Anyone, Deletes Comments

Because that’s what happened.

Let’s get the requisites out of the way first: blogs work differently from old media. That’s what they say, isn’t it? Yet you’ll be hard-pressed to find such an egregious abuse of an administrator’s rights on a blog owned by any money-making company anywhere. Should I remind everyone that we’re talking about the Wall Street Journal here?

At 2:36 pm, Jason Chow posted a WSJ China Real Time Report story titled, “Conan O’Brien to Da Peng: I Forgive You.” I thought: fantastic! New video! But the only two embedded videos in the post were Conan calling out Da Peng and Da Peng’s response. Here were the concluding paragraphs:

This struck me as strange. That first Conan video appeared more than a week ago and was blogged here six days ago. That second video, via Tea Leaf Nation, was from four days ago. And WSJ’s headline? Total nonsense. Where does Conan forgive Da Peng?

I casually g-chatted BJC senior editor RFH to this. He suggested the joke “China Time Delay Report.” It seemed good for a chuckle. I don’t comment often in WSJ, but I tried posting:

Thanks, China Time Delay Report. Only six days late with the first video and four days late with the second.

I made an aside to the nonsensical headline and threw in a link to this site. For whatever reason, the comment bounced. I tried a second comment without the URL and that bounced as well.

But RFH was able to get a comment posted, then a second:

This episode was cleansed from my mind. An hour or so later, a friend sent me the link. I’d already seen it, I told him. I clicked on it anyway. And… oh. Something was a bit… different:

Four added paragraphs. And this:

Scrubbed, all clean

They deleted RFH’s original comments.

So let’s recap:

  1. Journalist writes terribly outdated post on a Wall Street Journal blog called China Real Time Report.
  2. Journalist is notified via comments section that post is lacking.
  3. About two to three hours after the original post, journalist adds what the post was lacking, proceeds to thank commenter who alerted him to his mistake by deleting his comment. No hat tip, no thanks.
  4. Hands cleaned, Wall Street Journal opens itself up for compliments: love this entry.

And the best part? No one saw a thing.

    4 Responses to “Today In Shitty Online Journalism Ethics: Don’t Do What The Wall Street Journal Just Did”

    1. darandy

      Folks, I just don’t think this qualifies as “shitty ethics” in the context of China journalism. It’s not like citing The Onion as your source (Nov. 2012, People’s Daily for eg) or self censoring journalists from writing on important political topics (Nov. 2013 Bloomberg for eg:

      Moreover, I think it does a disservice to this blog to call out another individual journalist when from the above article I don’t see how we readers can even be sure that the WSJ journalist named was responsible. How can we be sure this wasn’t his editor or his webmaster?

      It’s important to hold publications and individuals accountable, but it’s equally important not to overstate the case or needlessly sling mud. Clearly, “realtime” means different things to big papers than to blogs, that’s why we read bogs. This one has some good stories, posted in real time. I’d like to read less nitpicking the big boys and more interesting and unique blogging. Thanks very much


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