Editor's Blog - How we work, how we make decisions, how we serve Canadians.

Jennifer McGuire

General Manager and Editor in Chief

Request to remove content from our website: the issues involved

Categories: Canada

From time to time we will explore journalistic issues highlighted by your letters about our coverage. We strive to respond to all complaints within twenty days and take action where warranted. However, there are times when the complainant is not satisfied with our response and asks our Ombudsman, Esther Enkin to conduct a third party review. The reviews are not meant to be prescriptive but to gauge our performance against our own stated policies, holding our journalism to account.

The Office of the Ombudsman publishes those reviews. As a management team, we are accountable to follow-up when the reviews find that we have been in breach of our own Journalistic Standards and Practices.  Those public policies are rigorous and recognized among the "best in class" around the world:  over and above what other media organizations do to ensure an ethical, fair and balanced approach. Our response can take many forms: sometimes we correct, retract, or apologize, sometimes we adapt our editorial processes, and other times we take the opportunity to provide better training and guidance for our journalists.

In the latest review, the Ombudsman responded to a request from the family of a man recovering from mental illness to remove articles about him from our website. The review found that "as difficult as it sometimes is, CBC management made the right decision to leave a story online when asked to remove it".

Our general policy is that the material we publish is part of the public record and should remain so. Unlike newspapers, television and radio, the material published online can live forever and presents its own special set of challenges when considering policy.  We do sometimes remove material, especially if it involves a legal or personal safety threat.  But each request comes with its own set of circumstances and facts and our job is to weigh them in the greater context.

Sometimes, while we cannot retract the information, there are things we can do to mitigate the situation.  That is what happened here.

You can read the full Ombudsman's review.

Tags: Ombudsman

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