Letters to the Editor: It’s heartless for newspapers to dismiss pleas to delete old crime stories

A woman views newspaper headlines at a newsstand in Sacramento in 1999.
Calls have increased for newspapers to delete stories on long-ago arrests or convictions or to make those articles hidden from internet search engines.
(Bob Galbraith / Associated Press)

To the editor: I strongly disagree with the presumption that anything printed in a newspaper, including articles on minor arrests and criminal convictions, should become accessible for years on the internet. (“Some newspapers are deleting old crime stories to give people fresh starts. Is that wise?” Opinion, Feb. 7)

Transgressions of historical importance — the trial of O.J. Simpson, for example — do not need a newspaper to be preserved in history. Minor crimes are of little interest after publication, and although they obviously need to be preserved in court records, should not be so easily available online.

None of us can be adequately described by our worst behavior, and records of our best behavior are usually lost to history. That which finds its way into police records, apart from serious crimes, does not describe who we are and contains no trace of the good we have done.


Don Tonty, Torrance


To the editor: Our legal system provides for expungement of some convictions, and some courts have ruled it a violation of privacy and allowed for monetary damages when an old and unrepeated wrong act is dredged up.

Columnist Nicholas Goldberg’s approach vitiates these policies with no apparent redeeming social value. A minor conviction is not the stuff of history, and his argument that reported news is the first draft of history is mechanical and heartless.

Paul Malykont, Los Osos


To the editor: Goldberg’s surprisingly weak argument — that The Times is somehow obligated not to hide the identity of a private citizen who was the subject of a long-ago article about her misdemeanor — betrays a poor understanding of what the study of history is for.

While many things about the woman in question — her age at the time of her transgression, her economic status, her geographic location, her gender, her demographic — are of vital importance to history (and to statistical analysis), one thing absolutely is not: her name. She is not a public figure.

By contrast, The Times is a major media entity that chose to publish (literally, to “make public”) racist articles. To equate the rights of The Times and those of a private citizen is absurd.

James Hanes, Los Angeles