During my years as a newspaper reporter, I wrote countless stories about crime and the people accused of committing those offenses.
While some misdeeds were severe and ended with a senseless death, others involved a brief lapse in judgement. People accepted their punishment and moved on. But the internet has changed how stories are circulated, leaving ex-offenders with a virtual criminal record that reflects little or nothing of their efforts to correct a mistake.
An initiative undertaken by The Boston Globe takes a serious look at how crime is reported and the consequences of putting every defendant in the same spotlight. The “Fresh Start” program gives people the chance to ask the newspaper to update the story or anonymize past coverage online. Each case will be reviewed individually for potential removal from Google search results or anonymizing names in the past stories.
It was not uncommon for an ex-offender to contact me and other reporters about stories with a shelf life so long it disrupted a job search or another opportunity in a person’s life. An easy solution did not exist at the time of those requests.
The arguments made by The Boston Globe that newspapers need to revisit their standards for crime coverage are worthy of serious consideration by the media. The thorny issues of who is most impacted by crime reporting are part of the Boston debate. I think “The Fresh Start” initiative is worthy of a conversation in newsrooms across the globe.
Here’s a link to a story reported on NPR’s “Here and Now” about The Boston Globe program: