The dog it was that died: or not
Almost exactly a year ago I linked to a story on the BBC website about a stray dog which had wandered into a Rabbinical court in Jerusalem. Apparently the court ordered that it should be stoned to death. I asked:
Let's see if this gets much play in the media: because you may be sure that if a dog entered a Sharia court in, say, Iran and was sentenced to death by stoning, there would be columnists all round the world bemoaning Islam's medieval attitudes and animal cruelty.
Well, it seems the story received a lot of attention and became the "most read" story on the BBC site. However, if you try to read the story there now you get a +404 error. Which is presumably because the story turns out to have been either a hoax, or at the very least a grotesque exaggeration. See the report here.
I feel it would have been better practise for the BBC to have left their report in place (or some kind of stub at least) along with an apology and retraction, rather than just deleting it. They published a correction (including an apology from the original Israeli source of the story) but the only way I found it was by Googling when I got the +404. There is an explanation of the decision to delete the original story here, along with the BBC's own apology. Which still leaves me in the dark as to why they didn't redirect people trying to view the original story to the correction.
As one of the commenters at the Editors' blog remarked,
7am and it seems that the page for the original story has gone '404'. This is not what should have happened. I wonder how many people will see that this story is still the most read Middle East story of last weekend, look for it, get a '404' and wonder why. The original story page should link to, at the very least, The Editors article but preferably a proper apology.
I agree, which must be one of the very few times I have found myself agreeing with someone who whines about the BBC's wholly imaginary "institutional bias against Israel".
It is precisely because the BBC normally simply parrots the Israeli government's view of every news story (or more specifically of every news story relating to the West Bank or Gaza) that it will have found this affair particularly embarrassing. I can understand, then, why there will have been a wish to bury the whole thing and move on: but hiding the correction away (and hiding the apology deeper still) was a stupid misjudgement.