This morning, Red Line MBTA service was delayed for over an hour. The Boston Police department tweeted that someone had been struck by a train at South Station.
Boston.com originally reported that the man had walked into the side of an oncoming train, receiving minor injuries. (See original Boston.com post here) which prompted about 15 comments about what an idiot the "victim" was.
Soon, however, I noticed that Boston.com had edited the story, to this version, which states that the victim was a 50-something year old man, who stuck his head out in front of an oncoming train and was struck, receiving serious head injuries, upper torso lacerations, etc.
This new information rendered the initial comments on the piece somewhat irrelevant, as there was now nothing in the article about a man having walked into the side of a train. Subsequent comments were clearly in response to the edited version of the story, and a few people expressed confusion as to why others thought the man had walked into the train.
I left a comment, pointing out that the story had been edited, with no indication to the readers that there were corrections or updates made. It was published, and stayed up for about ten minutes.
And then all of the comments disappeared.
So, I left ANOTHER comment, about how all of the comments had disappeared.
It never made it online - about five minutes later, Boston.com disabled comments on the article.
This all begs the question - how should online news mediums deal with story updates and corrections? When a news medium like Boston.com, or, of course, like thephoenix.com, posts a story, and that story proves to be inaccurate, is it the website's responsibility to alert readers to any subsequent edits? And what about comments that are rendered irrelevent by said edits?
On the one hand, if Boston.com posts that a man walked into a train, and readers comment on that, and then it turns out that information is inaccurate, then the comments become inaccurate as well. But on the OTHER hand, just because it's easy to quickly edit an online piece doesn't mean that it's ok to therefore hit "reset" on the comments. This seems irresponsible, seems sneaky, seems like Boston.com is therefore trying to sweep its inaccuracies under the rug and start again.
And to disable comments completely, therefore eliminating the public forum for discussion? Borderline unethical.
Here's how I imagine this went down - a Boston.com editor simply didn't want to deal with monitoring/amending comments to the piece, so said, "You know what? Fuck it. I don't have time for this. Just take them all down so we don't have to think about this anymore."
CNN.com deals with breaking news and story updates by changing its headlines, and posting bullet points with updated information at the top of an existing article, and stating what had been previously reported. This seems, to me, to be a decent solution.
What do you think? How should online news mediums deal with story updates? And with comments that are rendered irrelevent by said updates? Leave them up? Take them down? Disable commenting altogether?
No matter what you say, I promise not to delete your comment. And, by the way Boston.com, I would love an explanation.