What is unpublishing?
Unpublishing is the removal of existing news coverage, whether written, audio, video, livestream, or any other means. Unpublishing is frowned upon by many news outlets including this one, since keeping a complete archive of the news is one of the main values news organizations add to current discourse and history. That said, there are limited situations in which IMA does allow “unpublishing.”
When unpublishing is always allowed:
By court order.
If a story is demonstrably factually false or was not obtained by honest means, it will be removed. The complainant should be prepared to substantiate claims about inaccuracy and/or dishonesty. The editors reserve the right to run a correction, remove, or create a follow-up story as appropriate.
If a story covers a crime (except those below) which has been expunged, dismissed, or acquitted. The complainant should be prepared to substantiate expungement, dismissal, or acquittal. Editors reserve the right to remove or update the story.
When unpublishing is never allowed:
If the story covers any factual material about a public figure, a public employee (including police) or someone running for elected office, we will not remove it. We will run factual corrections and updates as appropriate, but stories will not be removed.
When unpublishing is likely not allowed:
Livestream or video materials collected in a public place, where reasonable expectation of privacy does not apply.
Stories where participants gave consent to participate (even if they later regret it).
Events involving public officials and servants.
Criteria for Unpublishing
If requesting unpublishing, you should be aware of the following criteria, and your unpublishing request should speak to them. In all instances, the editors reserve the final decision on whether something will be unpublished, and will generally opt to update or correct a story unless presented with overwhelming evidence that unpublishing is necessary to repair or prevent harm, maintain transparency, and abide by general principles and law regarding fact-based and ethically sourced reporting.
Is the piece presenting as fact information that is demonstrably false? (Please supply documentation)
Note: Live-stream speeches and interviews are the opinions of the speaker. IMA does not make claims to the factuality of livestream commentary, unless it is from an identified member of IMA (e.g., the live-streamer).
Was the information in the piece obtained by dishonest means? (Please supply documentation)
Is the piece covering a crime for which someone has been acquitted, expunged, or dismissed? (Please supply documentation)
Documented evidence of 1, 2, or 3 is grounds for correction, updating, or unpublishing, based on editorial decision. Whether to unpublish rather than update or correct is based on the following criteria.
Is the story causing further harm by remaining live? How, and to whom? Would the story still cause harm if it was corrected or updated? (Please describe)
Are the individual(s) at risk for harm from the story in public positions of power, such as elected officials, public servants, or organizations that receive public dollars or dictate public policy? (Please describe)
Unpublishing requires a minimum of an overwhelming rationale for number 4 and a “no” on number 5. The final decision on whether to correct, update, or unpublish a story lies with the editors.
If you believe a piece of IMA coverage should be unpublished, please send an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your request, a link to the original piece, a rationale for why it should be unpublished, and any supporting documentation to demonstrate you have met the criteria outlined above.
Please note that in most cases, we will opt to update rather than remove a story, so as to preserve the archive and ensure transparency with our reporting. For a story to be removed rather than updated, the unpublishing request would need to overwhelmingly meet the criteria above and have a clear rationale for why correcting or updating the story would not address or prevent further harm.
As noted in the “When unpublishing is never allowed” section, stories concerning elected officials or other public servants will be updated or corrected if necessary, but not removed.
Unpublishing Approval Processes
Unpublishing requests will be reviewed by at least two IMA editors (managing or associate editors) who were not the original authors of the story. They will make the final decision within 3 weeks and will notify the requester.
*Managing or Associate Editors are citizen journalists with IMA who have been involved substantially with the organization (beyond content creation), including editing or supporting development of other citizen journalists’ work, for at least one year.