John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Is Google Making Us Stupid? … Obviously.

Is Google making us stupid?

The answer to that question, recently posed by Nick Carr in The Atlantic, is a resounding yes. At least in the case of Sun Sentinel publisher Tribune.

How else to explain the company’s claim that Google is largely to blame for the six-year-old news story that gutted the United Airlines share price this week?

In a statement issued Wednesday, Tribune (TXA) said that Google’s indexing of the article, “United Airlines Files for Bankruptcy,” on Google News made the story appear new, even though it was originally published on Dec. 10, 2002.

At 1:36:57 a.m. EDT, September 7, (10:36:57 p.m. PDT, September 6), our records show that the Google search agent–known as “Googlebot”–crawled the story on Sun Sentinel’s website. Our records also show that the Google search agent had previously crawled this same story numerous times, including as recently as last week. Shortly after Googlebot crawled the Sun Sentinel site this time, however, a link to the story appeared on Google News, with a date of Sept. 6, 2008, provided by Google. At 1:39:59 a.m. EDT, September 7 (10:39:59 p.m. PDT, September 6), our records show the story on the Sun Sentinel website received its first referral from Google News.

Apparently, sometime Monday morning, the story was made available to subscribers of Bloomberg News.

As we said yesterday, the December 10, 2002, story contains information that would clearly lead a reader to the conclusion that it was related to events in 2002. In addition, the comments posted along with the story are dated 2002. It appears that no one who passed this story along actually bothered to read the story itself.”

Apparently not. Certainly the Income Securities Advisors employee who published the story to the Bloomberg financial news service didn’t. Because if he did, he surely would have noticed the original publication date in the article’s dateline, right?

Wrong. Turns out the article did not have a dateline or an original publication date. There was, however, a date above the article at the top of the Web page on which it appeared: “September 7, 2008.” Add to this the fact that the article had been given eight different URLs and one of them was listed in the most-viewed section of the Sun Sentinel’s Web site and, well … clearly, this was all Google’s fault.


Publishing a news story at multiple URLs without a proper publication date in the era of search engine optimization, or SEO, seems just a bit irresponsible for a major news organization doesn’t it? Perhaps not as irresponsible as publishing that story to a financial newswire without reading it or, you know, confirming it–but irresponsible nonetheless.

The SEC is looking into the matter.

[Image Credit: blogstorm]

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work