Fancy some time travel? Go back to my blog entry about John Thain from January 22, and click on the first link. I promise I haven’t edited it. Amazingly, despite the fact that I was linking to a story on January 22, the place you end up is a story dated January 26.
Dear John Thain has more details, but it seems that the WSJ, instead of simply writing a new story when new information comes to light, goes back and edits its old ones. As a result, it’s impossible to get any kind of historical record of what the WSJ reported when.
I’m not a fan of this practice at all. It’s not transparent, and it’s yet another reason (beside the subscription firewall) not to link to WSJ.com. After all, I don’t want to link to one thing, only to find, a few days later, that I’m now linking to something else entirely. Adding updates and links to a web page is one thing, but don’t remove large chunks of text without any indication that you’ve done so.
The WSJ is one of the key newspapers of record when it comes to this financial crisis, and increasingly it’s being read online rather than on paper. In fact, much of the WSJ’s online content never appears on paper at all, which means that the web is the only place to find it. It’s therefore incumbent on the WSJ to preserve those web pages. If it doesn’t, it’s essentially erasing not only its own history, but also that of the financial crisis.