NYT to make historians go crazy with inconsistent dating of articles

Breaking News

A few months ago we reported that the NYT had adopted a new practice of dating articles. Although you might find an article published in the June 15, 2009 paper version of the Times, the newspaper might consider the official date the day before when the article was posted online.

That change made sense given the realities of online publishing, but it made historians' lives more difficult: Readers following historians' footnotes would have to guess whether it was the paper edition that was being cited or the website, leading possibly to wild goose chases.

Now it turns out that the Times is making things even more confusing.

Four dates are now associated with articles:

(1.) The date of the paper edition.
(2.) The date that appears in the URL
(3.) The date that appears at the top of the website page

And (4.) The date that appears when the reader clicks on the Print Friendly version -- which is different from the date in (3). (This is what's new; at least we think it's new, or perhaps we hadn't noticed until now.)

As an example, Paul Krugman's column in the June 15 paper edition can be found online at this URL:

That would seem to indicate it was published on June 15th.

But at the top of the column readers are told that this article was "Published: June 14, 2009." VIDE:

Click on the PRINT button and you get the date: June 15, 2009 at the top of the article. VIDE:


HNN recommendation: From now on when historians cite the NYT they must indicate clearly whether they are citing the paper edition or the"official" website date. HNN's policy is to cite the NYT's official website pub date.

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Nicholas Clifford - 6/17/2009

Confusing enough, as you point out, this new dating system. But I suspect worse is yet to come; when an article says something like "yesterday, the French government announced that . . . ." how will we know what "yesterday" means, if the article carries two dates?