I regret what I said. Remove my name from the article
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? In the irregular column ‘At the UKrant’, we take a look behind the scenes.
‘I once talked to the UKrant during the KEI week and told them about how I kissed my KEI group leader. I’m applying for jobs and I’m worried it might get used against me. Can you guys remove my name from the article?’
‘In an interview with you I said some critical things about the quality of education. I still feel the same way, but it’s getting in the way of me getting certain jobs. I’d like you to change my name.’
The UKrant regularly gets requests, often from people who’ve just graduated, to remove, change, or anonymise their names from our archives. These requests often come years after the original publication; one of the most recent ones pertained to an article published in the spring of 2014.
It usually involves innocent little articles, like the one about the KEI kiss, but sometimes it’s about something more serious. Not too long ago, an international student asked the editors to remove his name from an article.
Every time he googled himself, he was confronted with the UKrant article where he talked about how he’d seen his parents murdered before his eyes, during the civil war in his home country. After all these years, he was eager to leave the painful past behind and look to the future.
What to do? In principle, the integrity of our archives comes first, which means that we deny requests to remove, change, or anonymise names, even if the articles they appear seem ‘small’ or ‘innocent’.
There’s a good reason for this. It’s been said that journalism is the ‘first draft of history’. Changing journalism archives willy-nilly basically amounts to manipulating history.
Each incident is unique; there are no concrete rules about removing names
In this case, the UKrant refers to, among others, a judgement by the Press Council, which says: ‘Society benefits from functioning, complete, and reliable archives whose contents cannot be changed.’
An innocent kiss during KEI week or a critical remark are therefore not enough to change articles. Nevertheless, there are cases where an editor-in-chief might decide to make a change.
As each incident is unique, there are no concrete rules on how to deal with it. Generally speaking, however, we make exception for sources who might get in serious trouble or for people who are haunted by a traumatic experience.
In the cases of the KEI kiss and the remarks on the quality of education, the editor-in-chief has denied the requests. However, we did honour the request from the person whose parents were murdered. A small change ensured that he would no longer find the horrible story whenever he searched for his name.
Together with the UKrant editorial council, which consists of people from the university and journalism community, the editors have set up a couple of rules when it comes to removing names from articles.
One important rule is that if the editor-in-chief denies a request, the person who made the request can appeal to the council, who will look into the matter and pass judgement. The editor-in-chief considers this judgement binding and will obey it.
Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief UKrant