Unpublishing is an umbrella term for a set challenges that stem from requests from third parties to remove, obscure or otherwise alter accurate information published about them at some point in the past.Deborah L. Dwyer, https://unpublishingthenews.com/
(, 2022) Readers’ Ombudsman: The rights – and wrongs – of being forgotten https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/4817305/readers-ombudsman-newspaper-digital-archives-right-to-be-forgotten/
(Sept 10, 2021) The Media and the ‘Right to be Forgotten’
- This spring, Michigan put into place changes that go the farthest in giving people a second chance.
- “If you look at the the main avenues for social mobility in our society, whether it be post-secondary education, access to business loans, occupational licensing, obviously housing and employment, all of those different areas require a person to check a box about their criminal record, and if you do check that box, you’re unlikely to be able to obtain the benefit you’re looking for,” Cooper said.
- A huge reform to Michigan’s expungement laws won’t start until April 2023 when Michigan will begin an automatic expungement system where certain misdemeanors will be cleared seven years after a person’s sentence and certain felonies will be cleared after 10 years.
- But if money and access to lawyers makes expungement of government criminal records substantially easier for petitioners, elite status is definitely a factor in approaching the media as well.
- “Perhaps it is time to consider alternative solutions for giving second chances, even if they do not carry the force of law in this space and even if they require a serious change in perspective.”
(June 26, 2021) Can Journalism Wean Itself Off the Cheap Clicks of Bad Crime Coverage? https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/06/26/killing-off-crime-reporting-would-be-a-crime-itself-496330
Op-ed by Jack Shafer: Politico’s senior media writer.
Journalism’s obsession with the bloody and the sensational is overdue for a rethink thanks to the right-to-be-forgotten movement. But don’t forget the rights of readers.
- before these right-to-be-forgotten fixes become journalism’s new orthodoxy, a fuller assessment of the purpose and meaning of crime reporting must be attempted so we don’t end up burning the house down to smoke out a single rat.
- For too long, crime reporters have stowed their flawed stories in a memory hole of their own. This didn’t matter so much when the only usable newspaper archives were preserved on microfilm and hard to search. But as more and more publications have placed their archives online, the cost of searching the back pages for dirt — or even dust — on people has plummeted toward zero.
- By making the past so visibly present, Google has exposed the weakness of old copy. The press should welcome the chance to right the wrongs they commit in old stories, and this movement pushes editors in that direction.
- All the right-to-be-forgotten measures do is add a level of difficulty in finding old, humiliating stories about you. They can’t really erase your past. (e.g. Via Wayback Machine)
- KF: That is the whole point!
- The call to revise old stories wouldn’t be happening if newspapers hadn’t made their archives available to the Google search engine, which made mass searches possible.
- KF: Not so! Malicious third parties can do this e.g.
- A better way to break the hold Google has placed over your reputation would be to create useful content about your identity that would push an old story about your misdemeanor offense to the second page of a Google search. You can do this yourself or pay a service to do it for you. If you think your reputation is yours to protect, this is the most elegant remedy.
- KF: Boom! There it is. Reputation management is the preserve of the priviliged and wealthy.
(May 5, 2021) Offering a fresh start (Martha’s Vineyard Times)
(April 5, 2021) Aspen Times editorial: Aspen Times joins ’right to be forgotten’ movement when it comes to crime reporting, old and new
- While we live in the day-to-day world of reporting on our communities, one story deemed worthy for that day’s paper lives on in perpetuity for the charged and/or convicted long after that person has paid their debt to society.
- Who doesn’t get clemency? For starters, elected officials and other notable community leaders or public figures. The emphasis with this policy is on victimless crimes. We won’t be removing names from stories about violent crimes or sex crimes or major felony cases that drew considerable community interest.
(March 31, 2021) Salt Lake Tribune Is Now Accepting ‘Redaction Requests’ For Past Coverage https://www.kuer.org/arts-culture-religion/2021-03-31/salt-lake-tribune-is-now-accepting-redaction-requests-for-past-coverage
- “We don’t want to be an obstacle for others as they look at their future and the success that they would like to build for themselves and their families,” Gustus said.
- Van Orden said publishing mugshots can have lasting impacts on someone’s reputation. She said a friend of hers who was falsely accused and then arrested is still feeling the ramifications of his picture being published.
- She said her friend was asked to step down from his position by his employer, even though the case was dismissed and he was found innocent.
(Mar 26, 2021) The Salt Lake Tribune will consider requests to remove booking photos or other changes to past coverage
- We recognize the lasting impact The Tribune’s reporting can have, especially for those accused of minor, nonviolent crimes.
- Effective today, The Tribune will review and consider requests to remove booking photos or names that appeared in our reporting previously. We may instead agree to update the outcome of a case. In rare cases, we may agree to make it less accessible to search engines.
(Feb 28) Peterson: The right to be forgotten (editor of Vail Daily, Eagle County, Colorado)
- [W]e can’t ignore this truth: While we live in the day-to-day world of reporting on our communities, one story deemed worthy for that day’s paper lives on in perpetuity for the charged and/or convicted long after that person has paid their debt to society.
- [W]e are committed to changing the status quo and taking a more humane, logical approach to how we cover crime and how we assess requests to rewrite the record.
(Feb 20, 2021) Our Opinion: Can the paper ever unpublish a news story? https://www.austindailyherald.com/2021/02/our-opinion-can-the-paper-ever-unpublish-a-news-story
- Gone are the days that stories are only published in the print form and that people can hope that a mistake will just disappear with time.
(Feb 21, 2021) Newsrooms Revisit Past Coverage As Editors Offer A Fresh Start (4-Minute Listen)
- [Cleveland Plain Dealer editor] Chris Quinn: This is hard stuff. Nobody’s done it before. We don’t have best practices. I mean, we’re winging this because somebody had to do something.
- David Folkenflik (NPR): Think about what we know about race and the criminal justice system. Think about how often people get caught up in that system and what it means in an age in which reputations are defined by search engines.
(Feb 16, 2021) Who Deserves to Have Their Past Mistakes “Forgotten”? https://slate.com/technology/2021/02/boston-globe-fresh-start-right-to-be-forgotten-newspapers.html
No matter how prepared for debate and equipped with diversity and inclusion training, a committee of journalists deciding people’s digital fates on a case-by-case basis is tricky.
[Cleveland Plain Dealer editor Chris Quinn] imagines one possible system in which newsrooms and journalism organizations agree on generally accepted practices, Google sets up the form for people to apply for anonymization, and then Google sends out the applications to all the different newsrooms, who would then run them through their filters and respond to them in the same way.
KF: Putting “digital redemption” even more into the hands of Google seems like a bad idea. “Bless me Google, for I have sinned…“
In the best-case scenario, “right to be forgotten” programs could propel newsrooms not only to survive but to become better. Allowing someone else to forget and grow from their mistake is a practice that newspapers ought to apply to themselves, especially as they continue to publish stories daily that affect people’s digital fates.
(Feb 10, 2021) How the Chicago Tribune handles police booking photos https://www.chicagotribune.com/about/ct-editors-note-mugshots-guidelines-20210210-3niutkl7mfd2rj6nmgcfv2mrjy-story.html
As part of an ongoing examination of the fairness in how we report on people — a bit of introspection that is both shared across the news media industry and long overdue — we are adopting guidelines aimed at the restrained and consistent use of mug shots with news stories.
Part of this is just plain fairness. A lot of people who are arrested will end up not being convicted. Some will be found not guilty or won’t go to trial at all. Some will plead guilty to lesser charges, even misdemeanors, instead of the ones that put their names in the news. Readers may associate law enforcement booking photos with criminal activity; their use might imply guilt of individuals who are, by law, considered innocent until proven guilty.
This is particularly critical as we examine how our journalism might reinforce racial stereotypes and amount to punitive coverage of people who enter the criminal justice system — the majority of whom come from underprivileged backgrounds.
(Feb 4, 2021) How student newsrooms can set a framework for requests to update old stories
Consider: What would a policy similar to the Globe’s look like at your student publication?
(Jan 30, 2021) Should police have a Right to be Forgotten: Letter from the Editor
Here’s a question: Should we hold police officers to a higher standard than others in our Right to be Forgotten efforts? It’s not an academic question. Our team struggled with it in an actual case this week, and I don’t know if we arrived at the right answer.
Chris Quinn, Editor, cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer: We’ve often said we wished our industry would embrace the Right to be Forgotten effort and work together on best practices.
Since we began our effort, some reputation-cleansing companies have popped up, collecting fees to ask media outlets about cleaning the archives. This policy should not be about who can afford it. It can’t devolve into another issue that separates the haves from the have nots. Our policy is for all, without cost.
After much debate and struggle, we reached a consensus that police officers are a form of public official, and because of the power we give them to remove our liberties in the pursuit of their jobs, the community has a right to know when they are accused of wrongdoing.
(Jan 25, 2021) EDITORIAL: Boston Globe’s Fresh Start initiative is a step in the right direction (student paper)
Though Fresh Start will be publicized through social media and community outreach, there is a possibility it won’t reach its targeted demographic as effectively as intended.
(Jan 25, 2021) We’re changing our policy on old crime stories
The fact is, news organizations have vast troves of archive content and high rankings on Google. So whether we recognized it or not, we played a role in holding back those who tried to move on from their mistakes.
If we approve the request, the stories will remain on the site, but they will be only findable through our own search box on bangordailynews.com
(Jan 25, 2021) Is unpublishing old crime stories Orwellian or empathetic? The Boston Globe is offering past story subjects a “fresh start”
Should an arrest years ago continue to haunt someone as they move through their career? What about for people for whom charges were dropped — or who admitted their guilt, did their time, and want to move past their past? Are newspaper websites the mythical “permanent record” where all your misdeeds would be recorded for eternity?
(Jan 25, 2021) Taking a look at the Boston Globe’s “Fresh Start” program
I was encouraged by the Globe’s chosen name of Fresh Start for its program. Why? Because all too often, newsrooms adopt some version of the “Right to be Forgotten” language associated with the digital privacy legislation in the European Union. The truth of the matter? Nothing is forgotten; in the EU, the information is simply delisted from search engines when the individual’s name is used in the search. This offers a level of obscurity, not erasure. We should be mindful of how the words we use convey an unspoken promise to those wishing for the latter.
(Jan 23, 2020) An old arrest can follow you forever online. Some newspapers want to fix that.
changing old articles because they are ruining a person’s life.”a permanent obstacle for someone’s future”
allows people to petition to have information about them removed from or added to old stories, to have their names anonymized, or to have the stories delisted from Google searches.
The Globe will prioritize stories involving minor crimes and those from long ago, but will also consider ones about “embarrassing” noncriminal behavior.
comes out of a reexamination at the Globe and many other newsrooms about how they cover race: post George Floyd – journalists have increasingly questioned their reliance on police as primary sources
In the past few months, the Kansas City Star and the Los Angeles Times have apologized for how they covered local communities of color over the years, and both newspapers have published pieces explaining how their reporting contributed to racial inequities.
In Philadelphia, 40 community organizations petitioned the Philadelphia Inquirer to change its crime reporting process and allow people named in older crime stories to appeal to have them removed from the paper’s website.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution considers requests to remove or update online content from people whose records have been closed to the public under a 2013 state law as part of an effort to make expungement easier.
(Jan 22, 2021) Boston Globe launches ‘Fresh Start’ initiative: People can apply to have past coverage about them reviewed
“Fresh Start” initiative: “Our sense, given the criminal justice system, is that this has had a disproportionate impact on people of color. The idea behind the program is to start addressing it.”
Often, he said, clients of the CPCS are written about early in the criminal process. Reporters rarely follow up when the initial information turns out to be wrong or less serious than initially reported, he said. In other cases, people are convicted and serve their sentences, but when they apply for a job, articles about past misdeeds prevent them from succeeding.
(Jan 7, 2021) Letter from the Editor: The internet never forgets or forgives, and that’s why MLive considers requests to remove old content
(Dec 15, 2020) Our Right to be Forgotten policy is about to help a whole lot more people – thanks to Google
“The Right to be Forgotten has become a social justice issue, partly because crime stories in old news archives are largely based on what police told reporters. And if the police had any kind of bias in whom they arrested, as has been demonstrated in case after case, then that bias likely is reflected in what was reported. By removing the dated stories, we can remove bias that might exist in our archives.”
(Nov 4, 2020) Unpublishing: who decides what news should last forever?
- Issue being addressed in the UK
(Aug 29, 2020) From the Editor: Changing the status quo on crime reporting, introducing “Right to Be Forgotten”
- Example from a much smaller newsroom example
(Dec 12, 2019) Whose responsibility is the right to be forgotten?https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/right-to-be-forgotten.php
- [KF: Rich vein here: Ref to Deborah L. Dwyer (at time) Doctoral candidate @ UNC Chapel Hill has been writing on this for years now]
(Nov 6, 2019) First, do no harm — but how? (Danielle Dreilinger)
What should education reporters do?: Takedown request to journalist from source in a “good story”
it would have crumbled into dust and frozen into microfilm, hidden in a library cabinet — what University of North Carolina doctoral candidate Deborah Dwyer refers to as “practical obscurity”.
“Deleting truthful, previously published information places a news organization at odds with traditional ethical news values,” wrote University of Florida journalism telecommunications professor Jasmine McNealy in a 2018 journal article, “A Framework for Unpublishing Decisions.”
Society of Professional Journalists ethic to “minimize harm.”
In 2018, UNC’s Dwyer surveyed newsrooms to learn about their takedown policies. Eighty percent had unpublishing policies, according to a September write-up in Nieman Lab.
Cleveland.com’s unpublishing committee has granted 50 to 80 percent of the unpublishing requests it has received
But I expect more to come. Like the subject of my article, many students who might later regret seeing their stories in print haven’t committed crimes. They’ve simply given insight into their lives. Dwyer called it “source remorse.”
Not only is it difficult to make categorical rules, he said, but creating an industry standard opens news outlets to negligence lawsuits if they don’t do what other outlets are doing. And a published policy might lead people to expect outlets to unpublish on demand, he said.
The Tow Center for Digital Journalism found 19 of 21 newsrooms did not archive their web content, according to a March report in the Columbia Journalism Review. Which means that deleting a story from a website deletes it, period. That’s a big problem for both the news record and our future research ability as reporters, not to mention our clip portfolio.
“Our digital footprints are only going to deepen … We’re going to have to deal with some of the consequences.”
Paradoxically, updating a story–say, to link in an update or add the information that someone’s conviction was expunged—may pop it back to the top of a list of Google results, increasing its visibility.
a 2016 workshop in which NPR editors urged education reporters to consider leaving out last names, she said.
(Nov 1, 2019) Radiolab Podcast: Right to Be Forgotten
- Interview with Chris Quinn, editor-in-chief of online publication introducing the background / rationale
(Oct 31, 2019) Why journalists need to think twice about reporting on arrests
- Early commentary [KF – lots to follow up on]
(Oct 31, 2019) Tales From the Teenage Cancel Culture [First name only]
The term “canceled” “sort of spawned from YouTube,” said Ben, a high school junior in Providence, R.I. (Because of their age and the situations involved, The New York Times has granted partial anonymity to some people. We have confirmed details with parents or schoolmates.)
(Mar 28, 2019) Last year’s headlines are in danger of disappearing forever
(July 10, 2018) Right to be forgotten: Cleveland.com rolls out process to remove mug shots, names from dated stories about minor crimes
(October 19, 2018) Unpublishing historic marijuana charges a challenge for newsrooms https://www.thestar.com/opinion/public_editor/2018/10/19/unpublishing-historic-marijuana-charges-a-challenge-for-newsrooms.html
(March 11, 2016) Publishing and ‘unpublishing’ in the digital age: Public Editor https://www.thestar.com/opinion/public_editor/2016/03/11/publishing-and-unpublishing-in-the-digital-age-public-editor.html