When online publications erase writers’ careers

By Felix Salmon
May 9, 2009

Back in March, I wondered why the NYT was breaking the web, yet was hopeful that it was some temporary snafu, and that it would be fixed sharpish. But no — it’s still insanely broken, and Thomas Crampton is only one of hundreds of journalists who have seen their careers thoughtlessly erased by an idiotic marketing stunt.

This hits home for me, because, between now and then, my name was summarily erased from more than 4,000 blog entries at Portfolio.com, when the site hired Ryan Avent to replace me. Now, everything I wrote has Ryan’s name on it instead of mine. You could call it erasing my career, I suppose. It can be fixed quite easily — if Portfolio.com stays up, which it’s far from obvious that it will — but I’m told there are no staff available to fix it.

In general, web publishers care much, much less about preserving their archives and honoring incoming links than you’d ever believe possible. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s those of us who are paid by media companies to write things online who tend to bear the brunt of those actions. Maybe we should start insisting on adding clauses to our contracts, whereby we’re automatically given our archives and full rights to republish them wherever we want, the minute that incoming links get broken or the site goes down. Such clauses shouldn’t be necessary, but sadly I think they probably are.

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