The Associated Press said earlier this week it will no longer run the names of people charged with minor crimes, out of concern that such stories can have a long, damaging afterlife on the internet that can make it hard for individuals to move on with their lives.
In so doing, one of the world’s biggest newsgathering organizations has waded into a debate over an issue that wasn’t of much concern before the rise of search engines, when finding information on people often required going through yellowed newspaper clippings.
Often, the AP will publish a minor story — say, about a person arrested for stripping naked and dancing drunkenly atop a bar — that will hold some brief interest regionally or even nationally and be forgotten the next day.
But the name of the person arrested will live on forever online, even if the charges are dropped or the person is acquitted, said John Daniszewski, AP’s vice president for standards. And that can hurt someone’s ability to get a job, join a club or run for office years later.
The AP, in a directive sent out to its journalists across the country, said it will no longer name suspects or transmit photographs of them in brief stories about minor crimes when there is little chance the organization will cover the case beyond the initial arrest.