How To Explain Why We Won’t ‘Take Down’ A Story

This is now one of the most common messages received by newsrooms:

 ”I’m mentioned in a story on your website. Please remove it or remove any mentions of me from it.”

The reasons tend to be:

 ”I’m no longer the same person.”

“I don’t want future employers to see it.”

“I didn’t know it would follow me forever.”

The Standards & Practices editor stands ready to field such inquiries (and to coordinate with our legal counsel if necessary). Here’s how we’ll generally respond. The guidance may prove helpful if you’re ever button-holed by a former source. The wording is based on language suggested by the Associated Press Media Editors:

“We are guided by a newsroom policy that says it is inappropriate to remove content from our Website. If a report is inaccurate, we will correct it and state why it has been altered. If relevant new information emerges, we will update or do a follow-up story.

“But our content is a matter of public record and is part of our contract with our audience. To simply remove it from the archive diminishes transparency and trust and, in effect, erases history. This is not a practice engaged in by credible news organizations or in line with ethical journalism.”

(Memmos; Aug. 4, 2014)

August 4, 2014

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