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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Surely Crampton’s work is still documented by Lexis-Nexis, correct? It doesn’t do a lot of good for those without a subscription to Lexis-Nexis, but it’s still documented.

Prior to the advent of the internet, was is common for publishers to archive all printed material themselves or did they leave that job to libraries and indexing services?

Posted by cna | Report as abusive

Why not just duplicate your byline in *the text of the post*?

Posted by rkillings | Report as abusive

Embedding the byline within the article is a way to circumvent evil webmasters from deleting your work, never to be seen again.

Agree Felix, one need to be cautious on these things, The contract need to be reviewed again for avoiding such things in future for the benefit of everybody…



Yes, the work is still available on Lexis-Nexis, but that is only were a few people can access it.

The real value of the Internet and social media is the interlinking of information and ideas.

Anyone following up on IHT links posted on blogs or discussion boards is now sent to a generic page.

This means the NY Times will be losing revenue and frustrating readers. Hardly something you want to do at a time when revenues are dropping so fast!

It doesn’t fix the broken links, but where content itself is MIA there is the Internet Archive and its ‘Wayback Machine’. iht.com and portfolio.com will be preserved there forever. Really, it’s a stupendous resource.

For example try http://web.archive.org/web/2008021008392 5/www.portfolio.com/views/blogs/market-m overs/2008/02/08/exxon-mobil-plays-hardb all-with-venezuela

Posted by Matt | Report as abusive

Yet another reason to work with us at Seeking Alpha – file backup!

Regarding some safeguard against the kind of thing described here, there is a precedent of sorts in book publishing contracts, which commonly contain a reversion-of-rights clause if a book should fall out of print for a certain period–perhaps a year. A similar clause could restore rights to an online writer.

Posted by Dan Akst | Report as abusive