Unpublishing the News

The public editor of the Toronto Star says that she is more frequently being asked to remove published content from the paper’s website.  Often, she says, these requests come months or years after original publication.  One effect of having all this stuff on the web is that it never dies.  Well, it never died before, either, but it wasn’t quite so easy to access, or even find in the first place, and almost never did it happen accidentally. Here’s what she says:

For journalists and news organizations, requests to unpublish raise questions about accuracy and fairness, as well as trust and credibility with our readers and the communities we serve.

What’s fair to readers? What’s fair to those we report on? How do news organizations respond to such requests in a manner consistent with journalistic principles of accuracy, accountability and transparency?

My paper, “The longtail of news: To unpublish or not to unpublish” (24 pages; PDF) examines how news organizations throughout North America are responding to requests to unpublish news content. Information was gathered in several ways, most notably through a North American-wide survey to which 110 news organizations responded.



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