As newspapers become increasingly digital, the online reputations of individuals are being tarnished by incorrect, incomplete or misleading journalism that stays on the Web forever. In this article, you’ll learn what you can do to remove or “unpublish” news articles from the Internet, in order to protect your privacy and control your internet reputation.
As Google advises, you need to contact the publisher of the negative information. Getting a newspaper to remove defamatory information is possible (though not easy), and when that information is deleted, Google will automatically stop showing it in search results. Keep reading, and learn how to remove news articles from the Web and protect your online reputation.
When Newspapers Will Unpublish Articles
Newspapers are an important historical resource, and they’re proud of this fact. They’re generally quite hostile to the idea of deleting or removing published articles. However, now that the Internet makes it practical to search every news archive in existence at the click of a button, news organizations are becoming slightly more receptive — in extenuating circumstances — to making changes to published content.
Judges have started ordering newspapers to expunge news reporting in cases where the criminal record has also been expunged. Obviously, it’s not very useful to have your criminal record cleared when the original charges top your Google search results. Making matters worse, it’s common practice for news organizations to report on an arrest but not to follow up on the case.
News organizations are usually willing to delete defamatory or reputation-damaging comments that readers have posted to an article. But unless you have a court order, news publications will avoid removing entire articles, instead preferring to print corrections, retractions or follow-up pieces.
Reasons That News Organizations Will Or Won’t Unpublish Articles
Of course, sometimes a correction isn’t enough, but there is very little industry consensus as to when the complete unpublishing of an article is justified. Almost 80 percent of editors surveyed said they had deleted articles in the past, but their reasons varied widely. In 2009, Kathy English of the Toronto Star released an in-depth study on the issue: “The Longtail of News: To Unpublish or Not to Unpublish.” Read this report before you approach any newspaper with an unpublishing request.
Drawn from English’s data, below are the top two reasons newspapers have deleted articles, along with the percentage of respondents that have accepted each reason:
- The content is viewed as inaccurate or unfair: 67 percent
- Inflammatory or defamatory language or comments: 48.7 percent
The reasons least likely to get an article unpublished are the following:
- Source rethinks what they want wider audience to know about them: 0.0 percent
- Concerns that the post contains private information: 10.4 percent
Knowing these statistics can help you on your quest to understand how to remove news articles from the Web and protect your online reputation.
How to Contact the News Source That’s Hurting Your Online Reputation
Once you have determined you have a good reason for getting an article removed or altered, follow these steps:
1. Find out who was in charge of publishing the article. Generally this is the editor, managing editor or newsroom manager, but titles vary from publication to publication. If you can’t find this information online, call the organization.
2. Contact the newspaper by phone, and talk to the person responsible for publishing your article. If you can’t reach him or her, move up the chain of command until you do get to talk to someone. Don’t leave a message. Journalism professionals are extremely busy, and nonurgent voicemails or emails may fall by the wayside.
3. When you do reach the right person on the phone, be polite. Editors are used to taking abuse from unhappy readers, so you can’t intimidate them by threatening to sue the publication or by using aggressive language. Instead, try to win them over by clearly stating your case and by providing legitimate reasons for the unpublishing.
4. Stay on the phone until you solve the issue. If the editor requires further documentation, offer to send it by email or regular mail, and then follow up again by phone.
What to do if Your Request is Rejected, or if the Removal Doesn’t Help
The hard truth is that most of the time, newspapers will reject your request to have an article unpublished. News organizations’ primary responsibility is to report on matters as truthfully as possible, not to protect your online reputation.
Even if you do get your article unpublished, deleted articles can sometimes remain on the Internet anyway. A blogger may have republished it, for instance. Worse yet, the article may come up in an Internet archive.
Over the past few years, comprehensive, online newspaper archives dating back to the 1600s have become a tremendous resource for historians.
Unfortunately, these archives are also an online reputation risk when they publish your deleted news articles. Two sites that frequently capture and retain deleted news articles are Highbeam and Encyclopedia.com.
If either of the scenarios above describes your situation, contact Reputation.com and ask about the ReputationDefender product suite. ReputationDefender “buries” negative and defamatory information on the Internet, bringing the stories you want to see to the top of your search results. While newspapers don’t care about your online reputation or digital privacy, Reputation.com does, and its products are designed to address exactly the issues newspapers won’t touch. This is an absolutely helpful tool in assessing how to remove news articles from the Web and protect your online reputation.
For more information on how Reputation.com can help, contact them directly. Additionally, see these do-it-yourself articles in ReputationWatch on creating your own personal brand and dealing with online defamation.