The Unfortunate Tale of Your Local Newspaper, The Morningside Post
The screenshot above (minus the red scribbling) is from the site “themorningsidepost.com”. This has no affiliation with SIPA, or Columbia. This URL used to be our site before we, The Morningside Post, missed a payment to renew the claim to the domain. Someone else (we do not know who) legally paid for the URL and uploaded the old content (in spite of copyright laws) in an effort, we believe, for Search Engine Optimization.
An article on Gizmodo by Ariel Stulberg, a former Editor-in-chief of TMP, exposes the business of gaming Google’s search algorithm in an effort to improve search engine optimization for their clients. The article suggests that the old TMP URL (wwww.themorningsidepost.com) has been obtained for this very reason. The site on which you are reading this is new, which is intended to replace the temporary wordpress account.
But first, here is what happened from our perspective. (We are going to try and be as forthcoming and objective as possible. This is not meant to be an excuse):
On February 5th, 2016, The Morningside Post paid the web-hosting site GoDaddy another $25.16 to claim the URL for another year, through mid-January, 2017. Now, the current board (your writer included) was using one email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for our correspondence and website. However, there was another email account…
The email address (and login) to which GoDaddy was forwarding its billing updates were sent to email@example.com, not the tmpsipasubmissions account. Sure enough, while we (the current TMP board) was warming up to the Spring 2017 semester, the other email address was getting pelted with urgent notifications to renew the subscription. Despite GoDaddy’s attempts to reach us, inaction was the only response they would get: we failed to renew the URL.
This was brought to our attention when I got a call from an ex-Editor in Chief, Ariel Stulberg, who is currently working as a journalist. During our call he mentioned the editor.morningsidepost email account and, after logging on and perusing through the 500+ unread emails, everything became clear. Now, here is the slimy part.
He called me because he wanted to get my thoughts on an article he was pursuing about how tech-savvy types pounce on expired URLs, upload the old site, and then somehow use that to optimize their own Search Engine results (here, again, is a link to his article). Ariel believes the old Morningside Post website was a victim of such an action. As someone who toiled on that site for years, he was unhappy that someone would take advantage of the efforts of so many SIPA students to underhandedly meet selfish needs.
Since the Gizmodo article, themorningsidepost.com has changed: the old SIPA student content is gone, but the links remain -- if you click on one of the links to their “story,” you just get redirected to the homepage. All the links are basically dead. The complaint we had before about copyright seems to be avoided now that the actual content is gone. However, I have personally seen people accidentally go to this (misleading) news site. It is materially affecting us.
The new owners of the site are very difficult to get in touch with as they are registered with a site called “domainsbyproxy”, which seems to be focused on protecting the identify of the domain owner. Below is a screenshot from their homepage:
Our move now is to try and make this site the best it can be! We will keep you updated on the status as it unfolds. Wish us luck.