WSJ takes the rap for MSNBC snafu

BSD and Solaris refs were added in final draft

A cock-up and not a conspiracy appears to be the reason for MSNBC running a Wall Street Journal story about Microsoft that omitted references to the Beast's competitors. Differences between the two were spotted late last week, with MSNBC amending its earlier version of Lee Gomes' WSJ copy to reinstate the references to BSD and Sun on Friday.

Megan Doscher mailed Jim Romenesko's Poynter.org journalism website with the following explanation: "An early version of the Microsoft story was published to MSNBC by one of our editors, and unbeknownst to us, it was never updated with the final version. We got two pieces of reader mail on Friday morning telling us that MSNBC was 'editing' the story, and we checked and realized the production error and fixed it right away. We also explained what happened to the two readers who wrote in. Actually, the version that appeared on MSNBC was also the version that appeared in both the two-star and three-star editions of the print Wall Street Journal. It was different only from the (very late) four star."

That fits in with what we suspected yesterday. As we pointed out, the "editing" that so irked members of the Linux community in the MSNBC version - and raised fears of editorial interference, as Microsoft co-founded MSNBC - improved readability and actually corrected an major misinterpretation of the word 'free'. (It was used in the context of free as in beer, not free as in speech).

Unfortunately that was lost in the final draft, although the reference to Microsoft continuing to run its Hotmail service on BSD on Solaris in addition to Windows servers was reinstated.

This didn't stop Colin Hurlock, Executive Business Producer, Business and Technology at MSNBC.com from fulminating. "You're article is completely incorrect and without merit," he foams in an email to us.

You'll be relieved to hear that we used no Anglo Saxon expletives in our reply - but we did point out that the possessive pronoun doesn't contain an apostrophe. (Or an 'e').

If we can believe Doscher's explanation, all the edits in this case were made by the WSJ, not by MSNBC. But Hurlock might be trying his luck with the infallibility defense: something usually the reserve of Popes and divinely appointed monarchs. But since even the New York Times couldn't quite bring itself to apologise for hounding Chinese nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, so your chances of an apology in this example are pretty slim.

We're just glad to have helped clear up the confusion - and nail a conspiracy theory. ®

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