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Editor launches debate over keeping stories online

Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson has launched an online debate over how long newspapers should continue displaying old stories online.

Steve was recently contacted by a disgruntled reader asking him to remove a story from which dated back over four years.

The man in question was a teacher who had been struck off the register by the General Teaching Council after being accused of swearing at a group of young people.

He told the Trinity Mirror editor that, if you typed his name into Google, the Mail’s story would invariably come up in the search results and that it was having a very negative impact on his life.

Steve explained on his blog why he refused the request, saying that the original story was fair and accurate that there were no grounds for the paper to take the “unusual step” of deleting the story from its website.

However he then went on to ask readers of his blog what they thought of the rights and wrongs of the case, and whether it was different from the traditional archiving of newspaper files in libraries.

You can read the e-mail Steve received and his reply on his Editor’s Chair blog.

  • What do HoldtheFrontPage readers feel about this thorny and difficult issue? Please e-mail us on or post a comment below.


    Rich (10/02/2009 07:28:13)
    As someone who works in newspapers, this is exactly why many people hate us. The arrogance is breathtaking and sums up so much of where we go wrong. The attitude seems to be ‘we have the right to do it so we’ll do it’ and to hell with how it affects others. Among the many things we need to do differently, we need to understand that people in our community are more than our playthings … objects for us to flex our macho media muscles. It is this attitude which has eroded trust and is partly the reason we are in the mess we are in. If we want to be treated seriously, we have to stop acting like adolescent bullies.

    Chris Gaynor (10/02/2009 10:13:49)
    This is exactly what I have been saying all along. There is an extreme arrogance by some, and I stress SOME in the newspaper industry, who think they are better than everyone else, just because they work in newspapers. If I can remind those in newspapers that you are servants of the people, just like politicians. You represent the people, you are not better than the average citizen, that is what the media code says I believe in the textbooks… (we are all journalists at some point in our lives) some have had more training than others.)

    Chris Youett, amcmi, amimis, ambcs. (10/02/2009 16:23:43)
    Anyone who thinks that it is OK to leave old copy on online databases urgently needs a legal refresher on legal privledge.
    In hot metal days, when we could get late stories into most evening papers at 2:30 pm the same day, subs always checked to ensure that overmatter was used promptly.
    This was because if one published an old report of a court case or disciplinary hearing, the publisher risked a quick trip to the courts for libel. Keeping old legal copy online clearly suggests that the accused has committed the same offence again.

    legal eagle (10/02/2009 16:51:05)
    Surely, Chris Y, the defence would be that the report is factually correct (assuming it was in the first place). It might not be contemporaneous but nor is rehashing facts about, oooh let’s say the Jeffrey Archer trial. Legally sound.
    That said, I think the poor bloke has a real point.Googled to death.

    john (10/02/2009 16:55:11)
    Contemporaneous reporting – ie publish in the first available edition – used to be an absolute rule for editors and subs. For a newspaper to hold four-year-old court copy on its website is indefensible and probably illegal. What do the night lawyers say?

    Old-timer (10/02/2009 16:58:06)
    Contemporaneous reporting – ie in the first available edition – used to be an absolute rule for editors and subs dealing with court reports. For a newspaper to hold four-year-old court copy on its website is indefensible and probably illegal. What do the lawyers say?

    Legal eye (14/02/2009 19:06:01)
    There’s a few comments here from people who need to look at their own legal training notes!!! Yes, accuracy, fair and balanced reports and contemporaneous stories are all need for ABSOLUTE privilege. But all court reports still gain QUALIFIED privilege as long as they are accurate, fair and balanced. Do we as journalists delete courts/tribunal hearings a week after they’ve been concluded? Of course we don’t. Duh!!