The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Cary Brunswick

August 23, 2008

We can't allow history to be whitewashed

It occasionally happens that people will call or e-mail The Star with an odd request: They want us to purge the historical record (can you imagine it?) of facts that may not reflect well on them.

The most common scenario is that a former Oneonta college student, who is now in the dog-eat-dog world of job hunting and ladder climbing, out of curiosity decides to Google his or her name.

Whoa! Look at what pops up at the top of the list of links: a Daily Star police blotter from three years ago listing the former student as charged with underage drinking, disorderly conduct, open container or a noise violation.

And then they start panicking.

Except for the ``dis-con,'' the charges mentioned above are fairly minor and are lodged against hundreds of students in Oneonta every year. In fact, at the time, the charge may have been viewed as sort of a notch in one's college student six-shooter. (Of course, there was a downside: having to ask Mom or Dad for $100 to pay the fine.)

OK, so our student goes to court, pays the fine, attends a few LEAF alcohol classes and figures that's the end of it _ until that Google search a few years later, and perhaps right before an important job interview.

That's when we get a call from the former student who innocently figures we can just go into our website and delete that old police blotter item from our archives. And he usually assumes it will be done just for the asking _ or demanding _ as if we could or would arbitrarily change any fact in stories from the past.

We have to explain that we do not alter our digital archives, just as we cannot go into our newsprint paper archives or microfilm rolls and clip out some item so that future generations will not see it.

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Cary Brunswick

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