What you need to know:
- Editors don’t like unpublishing what they have published; they would rather run a correction or clarification.
- Editorial policies, we must note, are living documents that are reviewed from time to time to keep up with changing times.
The Nation Media Group now has a criteria and rules on how to deal with the increasing requests to pull down stories thanks to a new version of its editorial policy out this month.
Editorial policies, we must note, are living documents that are reviewed from time to time to keep up with changing times.
The 2021 NMG policy, known by its long title “Nation Media Group Editorial Policy Guidelines and Objectives”, has removed the guesswork and argumentation on when and why content can be removed. The older version had no written criteria or rules on ‘unpublishing’. Each editor relied on his or her discretion, whims or impulses.
I am particularly happy. I no longer have to spend a lot of time convincing editors to unpublish content that is harmful or violates people’s privacy rights. The criteria and rules for unpublishing are now in black and white.
Not always sufficient
In general, editors don’t like unpublishing what they have published; they would rather run a correction or clarification. But corrections or clarifications are not always sufficient. In some cases, an entire story or picture needs to be withdrawn, or deleted from the archives, to become forgotten history.
The main reason for unpublishing is to protect privacy rights or remove from public view misleading or harmful information. The revised NMG editorial policy provides editors with a standard for judging content that should be unpublished.
It says: “While there is no universally accepted standard,” the policy says, “our editors should be guided by the following criteria and rules when dealing with requests to take down stories or graphics already published.
Inaccurate and untrue
“One, compelling legal reasons, such as if the story is defamatory, violates privacy rights, plagiarised, or is an infringement of copyright.
“Two, the story is fundamentally or entirely inaccurate and untrue and cannot be corrected without writing a new story; i.e. if you removed the inaccuracies and untruths from the story you would be left with an empty shell, a non-story — a story that is not real or newsworthy.
“Therefore, such a story qualifies to be unpublished on the basis that it is fundamentally or entirely inaccurate and untrue and cannot be corrected without ending up with a non-story.
“Three, the story is obsolete, unfair and endangers someone’s life.”
The policy has new provisions on other issues but the unpublishing criteria and rules are the main takeaway for readers. To avoid disappointment, it’s my hope that readers will take into account the new standard before requesting for a story to be unpublished.
* * *
Richard Henry wants to write an article to be published in the Nation website. How much does the Nation charge?
That seems to be a common misbelief. Opinion Editor Mwiti Marete puts the record straight: “We do not charge for publishing articles. We only charge for advertisements.”
* * *
On February 9, 2021, Peter Waweru complained of a problem in subscribing for digital content. “Make it easy for us the ordinary folks. Think of that guy in a torn shirt that Mutuma Mathiu wrote about,” he said.
Apparently, he didn’t expect much to happen. A day later, he sent another message.
“In under 24 hours you have given a solution,” he said. “Thank you for the speedy resolution. I am now able to access the content unrestricted. Kudos for the good work.”
I’m waiting to hear from Edwin Kirugo, who wrote at about the same time saying: “Thank you for the premium content. However, the loading is so slow and signing up is difficult for me. Could you make it easier please?”
The Public Editor is an independent news ombudsman who handles readers’ complaints on editorial matters including accuracy and journalistic standards. firstname.lastname@example.org. Call or text 0721989264.