Every day, the editorial staff at the UKrant wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? ‘At UKrant’ is a column in which we occasionally we take a look behind the scenes.
It’s been said that journalism is the first draft of history. That means you can’t mess with it. Journalism’s role as an archive is untouchable.
People who appear in our articles and who’d like us to remove their quote, opinion, or name, requests we get with some regularity, need to come up with some pretty good arguments to convince UKrant.
In general, the answer is no, except in extreme cases.
What about the comments that people can leave on articles?
Over the past few weeks, several readers have responded to articles only to regret what they had written later, for a host of reasons. They approached us to ask if we could remove their comment.
Does preserving a comment fall under the abovementioned archival role? Should they be left up no matter what? Or is the matter more complicated?
It’s an interesting question, and I posed it to UKrant’s editorial board, an advisory panel consisting of wise people from the UG and elsewhere who champion journalism in general and UKrant in particular.
The board’s advice amounted to the following:
The editors are responsible for what is written in UKrant’s articles, but not for the comments on these (we are responsible for whether or not we publish them, which is why we have guidelines on what is and isn’t allowed in comments). The editorial board says comments are content that the editors have nothing to do with, and that they fall under the comment writer’s responsibility.
We always keep a copy of our own work, not of the responses we didn’t even ask for.
In other words, if someone would like their comment removed, we can do so without violating our archival role. As one of the board members put it succinctly: ‘We always keep a copy of our own work, not of the responses we didn’t even ask for.’
However, there is a ‘but’. In the system that UKrant uses, all responses to a comment disappear when that comment is deleted.
Now, we could decide to leave up comments that have responses and only delete the ones that no one responded to. But that’s not particularly consistent and a little random. If you’re unlucky and someone has responded to your comment, your request will be denied. If you’re lucky, we’ll honour it.
Another option is to ‘empty out’ a comment, leaving the responses to it on the site. But then those responses look like they’re responding to nothing and it’s hard to figure out the context of the discussion.
In short, anyone who’d like to have their comment removed can request the editor-in-chief to do so. But it might mean that any and all responses to that comment will also be lost. It’s too bad, but we have to be consistent.
I would also like to remind you of our rules on ‘Responding to UKrant’ (Dutch only), and draw specific attention to the following section in that document: ‘Please remember that your comment might have an impact on others. Please think before you post.’
Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief UKrant