August 4, 2018
by Arthur Hunter
Two words change the entire meaning of a paragraph. John Wagner, a news reporter for the Washington Post, has written an article titled "Mike Huckabee attacks CNN reporter on Twitter after he tangles with his daughter at the White House" but there are differing versions of the same article that have drastically different meanings.
In his column, he cites the controversial tweets of Sarah Jeong, a recent hire by the New York Times. His article has been pulled by many news outlet and aggregators, but there are two different versions and neither one shows any annotation of being updated.
Comparing the article on different websites shows a striking difference.
The following version is on the Washington Post:
The first article shown is the one currently displayed on SFGATE, it is the identical article, but the wording is slightly different. In the first version, the article reads in a way that the author inserts himself into the story and defines (or possibly defends) the tweets of Sarah Jeong by calling them sarcastic. In the second version, John Wagner distances himself from the tweets of Sarah Jeong by stating neutrally that she herself called them sarcastic. The first version of the article is already on several news outlets, including the Houston Chronicle and Yahoo News. The second version, which is the one currently on the Washington Post does not have any corrections annotated on it.
The question is, was this article edited, and if we assume the version on the Washington Post is the corrected version, why is the edit not mentioned? Already numerous news outlets have pulled the first version.
Skepticism about the media is an issue for many people, and with the rapid speed in which our society consumes stories, small things like this can leave a reader with a lack of trust in the press. Many people who have read the tweets of Sarah Jeong see them as inflammatory and clearly hate speech, and then to read a press article where the author himself redefines them as sarcastic can increase distrust people have of the press. The second version of the article, therefore, is critically important, however the first version is the one that has been propagated.
We reached out to the Washington Post to ask them about the discrepancy, but they did not reply.
About the Author
Arthur Hunter is a computer programmer and co-founder of Theravive. He has been in the tech industry for over 20 years, with multiple Microsoft certifications. He has a love and passion for the intersection of technology and mental health and how the gadgets we use and the time we spend on them play a part in our mental well being, for better or worse. Together with his wife in 2007 they founded Theravive, which currently has thousands of licensed therapists and psychologists. He enjoys writing on occasion, reporting on mental health and technology. You can reach Arthur at 360-350-8627 or write him at webadmin - at - theravive.com.