Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Cedar Rapids Gazette offers to remove stories about old, minor crimes from its website, with some limitations

The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is inviting people who have committed minor crimes and paid the penalty to ask the newspaper to remove stories about them from its website.

"News of a simple mistake, poor decision or minor crime can appear in search results and impact lives for a long time," Executive Editor Zack Kucharski wrote. "The Gazette has been receiving an increasing number of requests from people we’ve written stories about who say they’re being impacted long after charges were dropped or their court case has been completed. Whether it’s a job search, housing or growing kids Googling their parents’ names, many find it difficult to fully put the incident behind them."

The new policy has limits: "The case needs to have worked its way to resolution through the courts, meaning charges were dismissed or a judgment of some sort was imposed. Jail or prison time associated with the charges must have been completed," Kucharski writes. The Gazette will not consider removal requests from celebrities, local or elected officials. We will not remove articles where the actions resulted in the death of another individual."

The policy calls to mind the Anniston Star's 2007 decision to not even report the name of a high-school football player whose transgression caused the Alabama High School Athletic Association to rule him ineligible, meaning that the Oxford High School team had to forfeit seven of its 10 wins. Bob Davis, editor at the time, said "We wanted to treat him with the respect of someone who is underage. It’s the same reason we withhold the names of minors — there shouldn’t be something that follows you forever."

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