Journalist’s career wiped by The New York Times

May 9, 2009

Journalist's career wiped by The New York TimesThose of us who write exclusively online have one major fear, besides unemployment of course. That fear is having our work wiped by an overzealous editor or member of the IT department. For Thomas Crampton, a journalist formerly with The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, that fear recently became reality.

Although my writing isn’t in the same league as full-time journalists working for newspapers, it earns me a living and is currently a big part of my life. I may merely be a blogger but I would be distraught to lose the back-catalog of thousands of articles I have written over the past few years. So I have the utmost sympathy for Thomas Crampton today.

Crampton worked for The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune for over a decade. He submitted articles from a wide variety of places including war zones and hospital wards in his years at both publications. His work was professional and his pieces an important part of a written history which should last for many years to come.

Unfortunately, that’s not to be the case.

The Web sites of the two newspapers merged about a month ago, with the archives of the IHT being consumed into The NY Times. Consumed is the operative word because rather than remaining live and being readily available, the archives were erased in the move. As a result, Thomas Crampton’s journalistic career at the IHT has been wiped from existence.

Crampton was, obviously, distraught to find this was the case and has written an open letter to Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, to express his grievances and ask, rather fairly, for the articles to be resurrected on the Internet. If that isn’t possible then he would at least like the chance to grab a digital copy of the articles for his own reference.

This brings up some interesting questions. The New York Times obviously owns the content and has the right to do what it wants with it. But is it morally right to wipe a journalist’s body of work off the face of the planet? And without notice or providing him with a back-up? I don’t think so.

In a much smaller way I’ve been a victim of the same kind of incident. Two sites I’ve worked for in the past decided to get out of Dodge, delete all content and trace of the site’s existence, and not pay the writers what they were owed. But we’re talking maybe 50 – 100 blog posts in both cases.

Crampton, however, has lost many years of work due to this decision and he deserves justice.

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