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.”
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?