Late yesterday evening, user Zokajo posted about a Valleywag article that was receiving some blow back on twitter for a cavalier reference to sex slaves during World War II as part of its headline.

In the back and forth with one interlocutor, this particular series of tweets from Max Read came up in response to the interlocutor's suggestion that an apology and retraction of the headline would be appropriate:

This reminded me of a comment from Kat Callahan/Kyosuke the other day about Jezebel's editorial policy:

I can't add ETAs after a post is finished, or at least, after it is mainpaged. Jez editorial policy is not to do it. Although I can apologise in the comments if I think I need to do so. And I did on the Jenner piece.


There's consistency across these, however I haven't a clue if the editorial policy is distinct across the sites (Gawker, Valleywag, Jezebel, io9, gizmodo, etc) or shared. However, it seems fair to note that the editorial staff of at least Gawker and Jezebel states apprehensiveness to editing articles once published. (And those of us who read Jezebel are aware of their track record for retractions.)

I'm not sure why these Gawker Media sites have this apprehension, and that's kind of what I want to discuss. As a software developer, it's had to ignore that Kinja enables users to edit/update their posts. That's a reality. I edit my articles after I've written them for small spelling mistakes and I advocate that people use the feature pretty liberally (but transparently) in the style/etiquette guide I maintain. Offensive words on a page can still offend after publishing if they're stumbled upon. An author can change them and spare people pain, and can do so in a way that acknowledges the original transgression so as not to bury the author's responsibility.


I don't know how much editorial control Nick Denton exerts over GM web sites, but if this policy came from him directly, would it be so surprising? After all, on the idea of deleting user comments, he once said: "It would be like the removal of Einstein papers on relativity, the foundation on which a century of physics had been built." He got justifiably raked in the comments of that article for that bit of hyperbole, but if it does actually represent some line in the sand then the editorial policy seems to reflect that. If it turned out that relativity was incomplete as a theory, then it seems Nick Denton is amenable to correcting the record - backing up Max Read's statement that edits are done for cases of factual error.


Now, I do have personal evidence that to me shows that when they want to make edits, they will do so. I don't begrudge them that right, except that if you make an exception once I'll wonder why you can't make it again.

An article on Jezebel about an advertisement on CNBC was originally titled with a question rather than a statement. While the headline now reads "CNBC Is Running Ads for What Might Be an Escort Service" I believe it originally read something akin to "Is CNBC Running Ads for What Might Be an Escort Service?" At the time of publishing, a few users commented, including the user Turing:

Well, it appears that Betteridge's Law of Headlines continues to maintain a perfect record.…

"Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

That comment is dismissed, and the headline stands as it is now. Was it a factual correction? I'd say not really - the question vs the declaration is purely stylistic, but the change was made. Is this nitpicking? Yeah, but it still shows that at least on one GM property has a willingness to update an article for non factual reasons, and admittedly for a less serious offense than trivializing historical violence committed against a series of women under the banner of satire. It could be this isn't considered an ETA, but rather they count this as the same thing as fixing a typo. And of course, Jez policy could be different from Gawker policy. Without clarification from someone beyond me in the know, I can't really say.


So, with software that allows for edits and the clear ability to do so leveraged at times, the editors staunchly insist that in the case of this particular Valley Wag article that the editorial policy prevents a correction. The author did apologize, for what that is worth, though for now the offensive headline stands. As does the theory of relativity, and the different frames of reference for Gawker Media authors and readers.