Life Archive

Friday, December 18, 2009


Newspaper archives used to live in dusty stacks in libraries. Today, they're a five second Google search away, leaving news organizations grappling with the question of what to do when an article haunts a source, or even a journalist, online for...essentially...ever. OTM producer Nazanin Rafsanjani reports.

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Comments [12]


I do not think that the story was focused on the individual at all. He was part of a bigger story: how the Internet can haunt you forever and the ethical dilemma regarding when such unwanted details should or shouldn't be edited out. The above discussion could have been so much more productive if only it was focused on the bigger picture.

Jan. 28 2010 03:16 PM
Dagwood Engelberg from interstitial

I appreciate your treatment of this issue, but would like to register my opposition to the emerging a priori dictum that "the internet never forgets."

EFF co-founder John Gilmore once remarked "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." This is certainly seems to be the case where active attempts of suppression create the appearance of value, causing individuals to grab up and disseminate valuable pieces of information. The Julius-Baer documents provided a particularly dramatic example of this.

Often, however, people forget or lose interest. Often, links go dead. Often, even fails to pick stuff up. Here are two webpages I would really like to read:

Or, if you're less politically-inclined, pick through this list of links to early works of experimental hypertext fiction:

or, try to find a working copy of Wired's RGB Gallery of early web art.

The Internet forgets all the time. Newspapers change their link formats. I've had enough of my own web pages go missing that I'm willing to claim the Internet is a much more ephemeral medium than many people are willing to give it credit for. That it is frequently used to promote whatever is most now only enhances this quality of the medium.

Links go dead all the time, and if they are forgotten, it is often

Dec. 26 2009 12:40 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

My, Fellow Teacher can write as badly constructed run-on sentences as I often do and all I am is a high school graduate.

In the meantime, my problem is more of the reverse of this man's. The vast majority of my productive life just predates the digital age. The evidence of it is, thus, much more difficult to document and so I resort to these little vignettes of that life, from unintentionally planning the Reagan assassination attempt to shutting down Al Haig's Presidential aspirations to storming the barricades at HHS with Michele and Barack, to get them in the digital record, little memoirs.

Yet, had Angel not rescued me last week, I could have been taken for a base anti-immigrant, anti-Indian screedist and could still be portrayed as one with excerpting without context. So, I agree with Fellow Teacher, about considering consequences, after all.

Dec. 24 2009 04:08 PM
Fellow teacher

What disturbs me most about this piece is that the young man does not seem to have learned from his college experience, having chosen again to broadcast details of his personal life. I recognized his voice from the broadcast, and I realized that I know him and am in a position to offer a reference for him; before this broadcast, I knew him only as a smart, interesting, provocative young man. Now I know details about his life, and I have to wonder how relevant they might be to any reference for which I might be asked. My advice to him is to keep his private life private, and out of the media.

Dec. 22 2009 09:20 PM
katya rogers

Dear OTM posters - while we do appreciate your comments I would like to remind you that you are commenting about a real person. Someone who trusted us to tell his story - changing his name was not a decision he took lightly and we were grateful to him for sharing his experience with us. Please don't make him regret talking to OTM.

thank you,
Katya Rogers
Senior Producer

Dec. 20 2009 03:07 PM
Stephen from New York

I'm gay and I agree with Ed O.

This wannabe teacher is hypocritical and disingenuous - not the best material for a kindergarten teacher!

Why don't you try hair styling, sweetie?

Dec. 20 2009 01:24 PM
Robert from NYC

I'm just curious to know if it actually DID out any of the closeted Harvard jocks he was seeking out! No need to mention names but would be interesting--to me--to know if he found any. Almost LOL

Dec. 20 2009 10:46 AM
Scott from New York

For the record, here is the Crimson article:

As a side note, my surname is Peterson, meaning that a Google search for me yields millions of hit about a convicted murderer. Since college I have taken my middle name as my last: Scott Thomas. I've haven't made the change legal (yet) but it's the perfect excuse to make a choice I never thought I had: my name.

Dec. 19 2009 12:56 PM
Josie T from Indiana

An interesting piece that the story does not cover is what happens when we have the same name as someone else. With a relatively rare name I have only found two other people who share common variations on my name and fortunately (or unfortunately) they seem to have similar interests and values to myself.

The question becomes what happens when the others who share our names are dastardly.

Dec. 19 2009 12:05 PM
Ed O from NY City

Yet again, OTM using a gay "victim", who of course created his own victimhood, by exploiting those who were sexually acting out in secret. Well, he printed about his own sexual exploits and now he wants them to be secret. But of course, OTM doesn't report on his obvious hypocrisy but only that he may be "haunted" by his own behavior which is sort of what his story was, haunting others with their own behavior.

OTM bends over backwards to try to constantly make gays victims and never the troublemakers/hostile ones. Harvard deserves a loser like this. Ridiculous whiner.

Dec. 19 2009 11:24 AM
Erich Riesenberg from Des Moines, Iowa

This was not a teacher who had anonymous sex, it was a college student. And, alas, I am guessing plenty of actual teachers do it.

Changing one's name is not drawing attention to it, what an odd interpretation.

Dec. 19 2009 09:15 AM
Matt from NY,NY

This "teacher" who used to cruise for anonymous gay sex on craigslist, and who then decided to tell the whole world writing about it online shouldn't be allowed near children. What evidence has anyone found to show that his judgement has at all improved in the time since this article was fresh... It seems to me that the real question is why draw attention to the most private aspect of your life if not because of some need for attention. Can't we have sane people teaching our children?

Dec. 19 2009 07:59 AM

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