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The Google And The Damage Done

Slate's Jack Shafer criticizes New York Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt for writing about what he calls a non-issue: people complaining to newspapers about old negative stories about them on the Web that damage their reputations.

Shafer complains that the topic doesn't warrant a column (one could counter that Shafer's complaint about Hoyt's story choice might not warrant an article, either). And he basically says that all those old stories should be left alone.

Generally I agree with that, but I don't agree that the subject isn't worth discussing. I have had people almost beg me to take old stories off the Internet. One recently said that a negative story about him/her had been up long enough and no one would notice it being taken down. They also tried to ply me with promises of future story tips.

Of course, the story is still up there and isn't going anywhere. But what if there was information in it that has proven not to be factual? What if the story story subject was accused of something that they were subsequently absolved of? Tough questions for any journalist who give a damn about fairness.

Here's Hoyt's original column.

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