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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9 Responses to “Journalist’s career wiped by The New York Times”

  1. aquaadverse:

    Why didn’t he save a copy of his articles? How hard is it to click on save as…prior to uploading to the paper?

  2. Thomas Crampton:

    I have many copies of my articles and most – but not all – were successfully uploaded to Lexis/nexis by the IHT/NYT.

    The issue is not that – or me for that matter. The issue is that the NYT has squandered the net of links back to the IHT from across the web.

    Anyone going to a posting about an article recommended by a blogger is now sent to a generic search page to look for it.

    For now at least, that generic search page does not include the IHT archive.

    Presuming the IHT archive is uploaded to the NYT, the power of all those links that gave the IHT website a google rank of 9 will be lost. Also, you will frustrate readers who have to search for the article.

  3. DavidB:

    No doubt the NYT will restore the content online as soon as they figure out a way tp monetize all that supposed linking Thomas. It becomes more clear every day that NYT exists solely to monetize content, the “journalism” of their past has long since disappeared.

  4. Jeffrey T.Maxfield:

    Are you saying that he did not keep copies of his own work? What justice? He lost all control over his content when he sold it to the New York Times.
    Would I be able to seek damages if the person I sold my car to decided to turn it into scrap metal.

  5. Aquaadverse:

    Thanks for the clarification, Thomas.

    The NYT tried and failed to move the subscription model to the web and failed.

  6. Cindy Sue Causey:

    Was thinking the saving a copy angle, too, but then realized the deeper impact of this on Thomas: The loss of credibility as having been an NYT writer for that many articles via being able to actually point to their existence online.. At least with some *serious* digging, print journalists can bring evidence of their work even 100 years after it was done by way of, say, [microfilmed] copies at libraries, for example..

    On that smaller level you mentioned, Dave, I’m there in my even smaller own little nook.. After all that [garbage] last year about blogs being locked down willy-nilly as well as issues with hosts, I think I basically froze *completely* with respect to writing..

    Finally in a forward motion again as I tried to find that path most likely to be here even two years after my own last Breath.. Unfortunately, not a whole lot on the Net necessarily feels that particularly stable this very sec, what with all the seemingly constant impending gobbling up of favorite “smaller” websites by larger ones along with the here-at-noon-gone-this-evening’ness of others..

    Cyber hugs from Talking Rock.. :)

  7. John Pospisil:

    Great point about the links Thomas; it’s just stupid for the NYT to close the website down without considering the benefits of all that lovely link juice. I’d happily host the site! ;-)

  8. Pete Blakemore:

    Although I don’t think it’s right (and morally is not the correct word here), they own the work that a journalist puts into print. They have a right to do with it what they want, although how wiping all of his work out can benefit them beyond having more space is beyond me. It’s the bigger question of erasing the past.

  9. Thomas Crampton:


    Yes, if you think there is a role of “public good” that should come from journalism – which I do – then erasing the past is a terrible thing.

    Erasing a newspaper’s digital archives is equivalent to going to every library that has copies of the paper and destroying them.


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