A little over a week ago, a blogger who goes by the name K T Cat wrote a post about the Blogworld Expo, a tradeshow, conference, and media event devoted to blogging. In the post, K T Cat included a few sentences that sparked outrage and cries of racism from other bloggers. “Blacks in America have become the perfect laboratory for the consequences of annihilating traditional sexual mores,” the blogger wrote. “At 70% illegitimacy, they have destroyed civilization at the molecular level. Still think it doesn’t matter? Live it up, guys. Enjoy.”
But not long after that post hit the web, those controversial sentences were removed from the post, along with all reader comments that referenced them. A person visiting that same post now wouldn’t know that the above-mentioned statements ever existed. In a blog post published a few days later, K T Cat wrote, “I’ve been deleting one or two of my old posts and portions of just a few others lately. For me, this blog is as much an artistic expression as it is a recording of thoughts and interactions with friends. Painters remove some unwanted brushstrokes and poets rewrite lines. The end goal is a work that expresses you and not the steps it took to get there.” In further rationalization, he defended his decision to remove comments also. “I’ve been going through my comments lately and getting rid of some of them as well,” he wrote. “A blog is kind of like a party in that you prepare entertainment and (intellectual) food for your guests (readers) and they respond socially through the comments.” His analogy then went on to conclude that the deletion of comments is the equivalent of never inviting these guests back to your home.
Now, this blogger is obviously engaging in intellectually dishonest rationalization, but he still managed to highlight an important issue in the blogosphere: Once a post has been published, should it be considered a finished draft?
This question leads to an immediate follow-up: What is the most intellectually honest way to publish corrections?
There are three options that immediately come to mind. In the first, the blogger, like K T Cat, deletes the text entirely. The argument for this, I guess, is that blogging is a form of “first draft journalism,” and hitting the “publish” button is not the equivalent of publishing something in print form.
But though this would stop the flow of misinformation to new incoming readers, it does little to correct the damage already done. It also allows bloggers to rewrite their own histories, in a way.
The second option would be to use the
strike-through feature. This acknowledges your mistake, allows the reader to see what was originally written, and corrects a wrong. But still, this is just an extension of the “first-draft journalism” approach. It disrupts the flow of the entire composition and creates confusion. It’s also an aesthetic nightmare.
The last option is a nod to “old journalism” with a few added benefits: Create your standard correction and place it at either the end of the post or in a brand new post. Place an “update” at the top of the offending post with a note and a link to the correction. This not only allows your reader to know that a mistake was made — it also corrects the mistake without disrupting the flow of your final draft.
In the example of K T Cat’s offending post, I don’t think that any actual factual errors were made. Instead, the blogger wrote something that many found offensive, and, possibly out of shame, he deleted it. Perhaps the best choice for him would have been to create a new post and — in an intellectually honest fashion — apologize.