News delivery and consumption has rapidly changed in the digital era.  Sites like Science 2.0 were once dismissed by corporate-controlled media, but now the BBC, The New Yorker and Forbes use blog format online news delivery.

But they do things a little differently. In a rush to push out news ahead of their competitors, they will throw up a story and then edit it on the fly. Sometimes it isn't even a human, a computer could be writing the story within minutes of it happening.

Is it too easy to conceal mistakes, misrepresentation and bias? Are news outlets producing content at the expense of hard fact, proper investigation, credibility and truth?

The authors a new article discuss a means of tracking changes to news: enabling readers to distinguish the original content from the hidden edits. The ‘News Inspector’ could potentially be the latest cutting-edge tool, providing an easy and low cost way to reveal these undeclared edits to news reports. They analyzed a BBC story published online which was 65% rewritten over the course of a few hours for reasons and by persons unknown. 

The ‘News Inspector’ intends to allow readers to probe a ‘moral dimension’, give greater transparency to stories and glean underlying conclusions from the more meaningful edits.  The product will analyse word counts, time and sequence changes and variations of names and headlines to track alterations. 

The aim is for the reader to have access to when and who changed the content by a simple roll-over or pop-up.

The authors report “a growing public distrust of online sources of information”. Maybe a News Inspector can reinstate confidence - or it will further show why the public trusts corporate journalism as little as they trust pharmaceutical companies and organic food.

Citation: John Fassa, Angus Main, 'How online news changes without you noticing', Revealing the news May 27 2014 DOI:10.1080/21670811.2014.899756