20 June 2010

Should Retractions be Behind a Paywall?

"UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim", so proclaimed an article in The Times earlier this year. It began [.pdf]:

A STARTLING report by the United Nations climate watchdog that global warming might wipe out 40% of the Amazon rainforest was based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise.

Well, not so unsubstantiated, it turns out: The Times has just issued a pretty complete retraction - you can read the whole thing here. But what interests me in this particular case is not the science, but the journalistic aspect.

Because if you went to The Times site to read that retraction, you would, of course, be met by the stony stare of the latter's paywall (assuming you haven't subscribed). Which means that I - and I imagine many people who read the first, inaccurate Times story - can't read the retraction there. Had it not been for the fact that among the many climate change sites (on both sides) that I read, there was this one with a copy, I might never have known.

So here's the thing: if a story has appeared on the open Web, and needs to be retracted, do newspapers like The Times have a duty to post that retraction in the open, or is acceptable to leave behind the paywall?

Answers on the back of yesterday's newspaper...

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4 comments:

richard said...

Good point. Retractions should be more open, and prominent, than anything else. Because the truth chases the lie but never completely catches it, even at the best of times.

glyn moody said...

@richard: exactly: it's hard enough doing justice with a retraction under the best of circumstances...

Zeratul2k said...

At least in Colombia, where I'm from and reside at the moment, retractions have to receive, by law, as little media coverage as the original article. So, for example, if the article in question was featured in the national papers and TV news, then the retraction needs to be put *at least* through those same channels.

glyn moody said...

@Zeratul2k: sounds fair, but still raises the question of what happens when there's a paywall, I think.