Monday, September 22, 2008

Back to the future? Applying the Press Code of Practice retrospectively to online archives

Eoin's post on the statistics for the first six months of operation of the Press Ombudsman prompted me to browse the summaries of each case on the Ombudsman's site. There are a variety of issues in those cases, but one interesting feature was the apparent willingness of the Ombudsman and newspapers to apply the Code of Practice retrospectively. When initially established, the Press Ombudsman indicated that complaints would not be accepted in respect of material published prior to November 2007 - and in any event, the complaint must be made within three months of the material being published. Despite this, however, in two cases resolved by the Ombudsman newspapers were willing to take down material published by them between 2001 and 2004 but still available on their websites. Is this significant in itself? Probably not. The cases were resolved by conciliation - the Ombudsman doesn't seem to be asserting any formal power to comb over the archives. But it is indicative of an ongoing problem for editors, who increasingly have to stand over not just what they publish but also (via the online archives) what their predecessors might have published.

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