Guardian readers editor Chris Elliott discussed the UK newspaper’s unpublishing standards in a July 21 column.
As iMediaEthics has written often, many newspapers have guidelines in place that prohibit unpublishing stories in most cases. Elliott explained that the Guardian has a similar practice and laid out the standards that he created “for internal discussion” a few years ago. Some cases where he finds it acceptable to consider unpublishing include: for legal reasons, to protect someone’s safety, and in special circumstances involving children.
But, Elliott offered an interesting possible alternative for other unpublishing requests related to “minor indiscretions or convictions” — making the person anonymous after the fact.
While he noted that in the past he didn’t think unpublishing would be OK in those cases, now, he thinks ” electronic eternity seems a bit more than the courts intended for some crimes, and too harsh in some other circumstances.”
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As an example, he pointed to an interview with someone about “his brush with gang life” and how that person felt, years later, the article “defined him in a way that was no longer consistent with his life and hampered him.” Elliott went on:
“The stories of the crimes should remain on the archive, the names of those involved available to a search by editorial staff for future reference, but there may be cases for anonymising, in some exceptional cases, after a period of time.”
Elliott noted that this suggestion of making some people anonymous “has not been agreed.”
What do you think of this unpublishing alternative?