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Monday, May 24, 2010

What scares me about the Better Homes and Gardens commandment debacle

Late last week Better Homes and Gardens blogger Heather W. posted The 10 commandments of dining with little kids. If you clicked that link, you will have noticed that the headline now reads 9 commandments.

They changed it. Quietly. Over the weekend when online activity is generally decreased.

Is it just me, or doesn't it bug anyone else that this magazine didn't acknowledge that the content was changed until the original version was being smeared all over the internet?

The editor's note that is now in place on the post was placed on top of the post on Monday, May 24. The article was posted on Wednesday, May 19.

I don't know when they changed the post, but I read it around 9 a.m. Monday morning after seeing in on Twitter, and that editor's note wasn't there. It was just the post, with the changed headline and the missing commandment.

A brief synopsis of what happened.

Some blogger who apparently doesn't like hanging out in restaurants where children are shrieking, throwing food on the floor, and running rampant wrote some dumb list for parents giving them the commandments for how to behave in restaurants.

What BHG took out was this commandment:

Yes, I have seen table-side breast feeding at a four-star restaurant. If at all possible, take it to the ladies room. (Note: most upscale restaurants have really nice restrooms!)"

Unfortunately for BHG, enough people had already noticed the offensive proposition and copied it and pasted it all over a bunch of other sites, a Facebook page calling for a boycott was set up. BHG's very own FB page was littered with angry comments.

The magazine even posted a heartfelt apology.

So, on to what bugs me the most about this.

I don't give a shit that they have ignorant, uneducated and inconsiderate bloggers working for them. I don't even mind that they scapegoated her out, saying that nobody else had read the post before it went on the website. I don't believe that. I worked for a small community newspaper and my university newspaper and nothing got posted in print or online without at least one other person looking at it.

The magazine says that the post was "not vetted by our editors." What a load of horseshit.

But what really bugs me the most is that they did not post ANYTHING remotely close to an apology or a retraction. They simply removed the offensive part of the article and went about their business as if it never happened.

Until they got called out by thousands of pissed off moms.

A lot of people are saying that BHG has acted honorably and ethically by apologizing and removing the offending content.

That is SO WRONG.

It is highly highly unethical for a media outlet to ignore a mistake, and change content without reflecting that somewhere in the piece.

One example of an ethical media outlet, is the New York Times. Whenever they change something, typically a factual error, it is always noted.

In this time period, when online information is transmitted so quickly and easily, it is important to support media outlets that are honorable, ethical and honest. They must own up to mistakes. They must respect the sanctity of the transmission of information.

I know that some editorialized blog post on kids in restaurants is not exactly Watergate. But if the line gets blurred, there, where does it end?

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