Saturday, July 23, 2011

Star's public editor deals with the online life of withdrawn criminal charges

Kathy English, the Toronto Star's public editor writes, after a man complained that a Star story showing charges against him that were later withdrawn, kept showing up on Google:

"In surveying more than 100 editors across North America, I found that few news organizations consider the withdrawal of charges a valid reason to remove the original reports of those charges from their websites and archives.

“'It’s not our job to expunge a story saying someone was convicted of a crime simply because a court expunged the conviction,'one editor said.
"'We’ll publish a follow-up on the court disposition but we won’t take the story down that was accurate when it was written any more than we would rip it out of the print editions in our newspaper library.'

"Still, news organizations do have some responsibility here. The Star has a policy that stipulates it must report the outcome of any criminal charges it has reported.

"There had been no follow-up reporting on this man’s case when this came to my attention.

"The newsroom has now verified that these charges were withdrawn. In line with the Star’s practice, a note has been appended to the top of the Star’s original online report to make it clear when this man’s name is searched through Google that the charges were dropped."

Click on the title to read the whole story.

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