Since the 2020 election, a great deal has been written about information, disinformation, and misinformation. Very little attention is being paid to the newest threat in the information wars––omission of the year in online posting dates. We live in the 21st-century age of digitized, computerized information technology. In the beginning, articles posted online followed established journalistic practices, and journalism’s classic 5W + H formula. Articles answered six questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Today, online journalism is eliminating the When. I began asking the question, Why?
For print journalism, the When has two components––the dateline and the actual events described in the article. The dateline refers to when the story was filed or written, not necessarily the dates of events described in the article. Datelines followed the month/day/year date convention and appeared on the first line of an article before the text.
In online reporting, especially blogs and websites, the dateline often refers to the posting date. In the summer of 2022, I began noticing the year was MISSING in the dateline. Sometimes the date was presented as an equally useless and ridiculous “3 hours ago” or “3 days ago.” At first, I assumed it was a typo but soon realized there was a change to the default date convention. As a writer, researcher, and political analyst, the change was so egregious, I assumed the new date conventions had to be a form over content esthetic decision, made by the same foolish designers who decided hard-to-read gray font was superior to easy-to-read black font! I was wrong.
I lodged my first complaint directly with WordPress, on June 4, 2022. WordPress is a free and open-source content management system used by 42.8% of the top 10 million websites as of October 2021. The message read:
I am a researcher, author, and political analyst. It is absolutely maddening that articles are being published with a date that does not include the YEAR. Every event happens in its historical context. “3 hours ago” or “3 days ago” or “3 months ago” is meaningless without the year. Equally meaningless is “April 10” if the article has been saved and used for reference two years after publication. Information is rendered useless without an accurate posting/publishing date that MUST include the YEAR. Please address this extremely exasperating error on all the platforms you service – the problem is becoming ubiquitous.