In the era of the internet, news of a simple mistake, poor decision or minor crime can appear in search results and impact lives for a long time.
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.
We have put together a series of criteria that we’ll use to consider removing articles about non-felony and non-violent criminal offenses from our website.
There are many reasons we write articles about public safety and arrests. While details in many of the stories are gleaned from publicly available records, the passage of time can change how newsworthy a story is.
We also report on the challenges people have moving past a crime. Our decisions to publish impact people’s lives. The impact can be considerably longer than the court-imposed sentence.
While we can’t unprint the newspaper, its impact fades from public view and isn’t accessible worldwide. However, we can — and should — address this on our website.
Every case has unique elements, but it’s my hope these criteria will help us review criminal cases in a consistent way and work to balance news and legitimate public safety events with those who are trying to move past a mistake.
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Under the new guidelines we’re adopting, the accused must reach out for removal. 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.
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 full application process can be found at the bottom of the homepage of thegazette.com under the Article Removal Request link.
If we agree to remove an article, search engines will stop finding the information on our site as it is reindexed. The story may continue to live online from another source — including other news outlets or criminal justice and court systems themselves. We control only our own articles.
This figures to be a learning space for us as we move forward. We may make additional policy adjustments in time, but we’re hopeful that this policy will help people move forward.
Zack Kucharski is the executive editor of The Gazette.