As the question notes, the writer and journalist Stephen Crane provides multiple accounts of his sea trouble near the end of the nineteenth century. He published a record of his ordeal in the New York Press on January 7, 1897. This article was titled “Stephen Crane’s Own Story.” He then used the experience as the basis for a short story called “The Open Boat.”
When considering the differences between the article and the story, think about who is telling the story. In the article, there is an “I.” There is a first-person narrator who is recounting the events. In “The Open Boat,” there is no “I” or first-person narrator. With his short story, Crane employs an all-knowing, third-person narrator. This narrator has the power to tell what the cook is doing, how the captain is feeling (“profound dejection and indifference”), and what the correspondent is thinking about.
Another notable difference to ponder is the lack of place names in the short story. While Crane does mention Florida and the Mosquito Inlet, the story lacks the geographical specificity of the newspaper account. In the article, Crane mentions Jacksonville (a city in Florida), New York, Charleston, Cuba, and Daytona.
Perhaps the presence of place names in the article connects to the demands of journalism. A journalist should be exact and precise. Maybe Crane opted to minimize place names in the short story so that it could be more universal or even more like an allegory or metaphor. Not obligated to be so geographically specific, the short story could be interpreted as symbolic of the human struggle with death, nature, and survival in general.