How to get CNN to take down a page?
January 15, 2009 7:28 AM   Subscribe

How can I get CNN to take down a piece on their website?

When I was still in college I was interviewed for an opinion piece on CNN. My full name was used. I foolishly did not think about the consequences of having my full name associated with the information in the article, but I'm paying for it now.

I have an unusual name. If my name is googled, this article which casts a terrible light on my ability to manage money keeps popping up on the first page, despite my attempts to depress its page ranking. Employers in my field absolutely google job applicants, and this article from nearly ten years ago is killing my ability to move up in my field!

Is there any way to demand that CNN remove the page? There is no reason for it to be up and it is actively damaging my career opportunities. I would not be opposed to engaging legal counsel for this issue, but I'd really rather just have some other way to get them to take down the page.

Has anyone any suggestions?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think you're taking the wrong tack here. CNN can't make a policy of removing stories that are inconvenient for people. Otherwise Israel would have stories about dead Palestinians removed, Nixon would have Watergate stories removed, etc.

You made bad decisions when younger, and now you have to deal with those consequences.

That said, I would try boost the page ranking of some other pages above CNN's article. In fact, I would probably write up a story about how I was young and stupid and quoted on CNN, and try to make that a high-ranking result. Then your potential employers will be able to see that yes, you made mistakes, but you've learned from them.
posted by chrisamiller at 7:43 AM on January 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

Do you really believe that an embarrassing thing you said ten years ago while you were in college is hampering your ability to move up in your field? Really?

Or that potential employers would not hire you because of this? You don't say what your field is, so it's hard to gauge whether an embarrassing comment about your poor "ability to manage money" is related or not. And truthfully, if an employer seriously considers your CNN comment as a negative factor in hiring you, then you probably wouldn't be very happy working for them anyway.

I can totally understand where you're coming from (having said some fairly stupid things in my past) but I long ago realized that these kinds of things are leaning experiences and that the vast majority of the world simply shrugs them off and moves on. So my advice is to not worry about it so much and if for some reason it does come up in an interview just laugh about it with the interviewer and say something like "Wow, was I clueless back then...ha ha ha..."
posted by at 7:50 AM on January 15, 2009

This will likely have been indexed and reindexed by search engines many, many times over. There is no way to 'disappear' it.

As chrisamiller says, the best tack to take is to put your unusual name to good use and create an internet presence that speaks well of you - not craven Alexsey Vayner-esque self promotion or anything, but just well-written, well reasoned stuff, maybe about something you're passionate about or notable trends in your field.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:52 AM on January 15, 2009

From a legal standpoint, CNN is doing nothing wrong -- they're not misrepresenting you or using your image without permission. You just don't like how the quote makes you look. Don't waste your money on a lawyer. You might just try asking CNN and following up with a nicely worded letter if you haven't already tried this. Because CNN is under no obligation to save you from your youthful indiscretions, I'd try the honey rather than the vinegar approach.
posted by *s at 7:52 AM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have no experience with this- but, chrisamiller, can you really equate a college student's quote about money management in an opinion piece with news on middle east conflicts? Perhaps OP can find a sympathetic ear somewhere in the writer's department- someone who is willing to compromise and change his/ her name to a pseudonym...
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 7:52 AM on January 15, 2009

You spoke with the reporter willingly. Your words are not taken out of context, I assume. CNN has done nothing wrong and would likely ignore or form-letter your request. Unless there's libel or something involved, I think you're just going to have to suck it up.

Really, though, if someone won't hire you because of it, you don't want to work there.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 7:54 AM on January 15, 2009

I think the most you could reasonably ask for from CNN would be a meta tag in the document itself suggesting that the document not be indexed ... which is to say, "Fat Chance."

Your best bet now is to flood out — your name, in many places, with a higher PageRank than CNN.

Having said that, what's your proof that the CNN piece is the cause?
posted by adipocere at 7:56 AM on January 15, 2009

this article which casts a terrible light on my ability to manage money

You mean this article which suggests you were a doofus in college, just like 90% of everybody, nothing like the mature upstanding citizen you are today.

You can't get this article taken down. Not going to happen. And, seriously: it's pretty unlikely that a ten year old opinion piece is what's holding back your career prospects.
posted by ook at 7:59 AM on January 15, 2009

News organizations have a very strict policy of not removing content based on someone's request, for obvious reasons. If they had straight up misrepresented you, you *might* have a snowball's chance in hell of getting it taken down. More likely, it would stay up with a correction. So in this instance? Not going to happen.

Nthing the others re: taking a different approach and pushing it down by getting newer and more relevant stuff up. Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites, your own website/blog, journal articles, etc. All stuff that would be great for a prospective employer to find.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:04 AM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would gently suggest that this article is probably not the thing that is keeping you from moving up in your field. There is no reason for CNN to remove it and even if they did, it's all over the web anyway. (It would be a breach of journalistic integrity and gods, can you imagine the ramifications if this sort of request were honored by everyone who asked for it?)

But you can use it -- turn it into a positive. Mention it in your interview, and don't be defensive about it! You could do this in many contexts, depending upon what your field actually is: spin it to show that you were self-aware about a money issue in college (not very commonplace!), give the poor financial planning discussed as an example of a weakness (which you have overcome), cite is as how you learned an embarrassing lesson about reputation (which is why you would protect the company's rep), etc.
posted by desuetude at 8:07 AM on January 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

There's nothing you can do about it. If the story was run by a wire service (e.g. Associated Press), the story will be in a zillion places.

My wife was interviewed by the AP for apiece about medical information on the internet, and now the whole world knows that I have kidney stones. :)
posted by DWRoelands at 8:12 AM on January 15, 2009

I would gently suggest that this article is probably not the thing that is keeping you from moving up in your field.

I would tend to agree with this, but let's assume for the sake of argument that the CNN article is in fact a problem. As noted you are not likely to get CNN to remove the article, so what else you can do?

One long-shot strategy would be to get CNN to "correct" the article. Contact them and say, "hey I notice that old article with me misspells my name - it should be [something almost the same but not quite]". This would (eventually) take care it being the first Google result for you name. However, if the 5th, 11th and 27th results are different copies of that article on other news sites, you are out of luck.

I honestly don't think that has much of a chance of working, but I would rate it above the chance of getting CNN to remove the article (zero).

Something you could do that would have some immediate effects would be to start using an assumed name in business situations. If your first name is unusual, start going by "Dave/Jennifer Lastname". If it is your last name that is so unusual, shorten it to the first one or two syllables (or, expand it out a few syllables if it is short). If it is the former, just tell people you want an easier-to-remember last name for clients. If the latter, tell them you are restoring the actual full surname of your distant ancestors.
posted by mikepop at 8:28 AM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I vote for starting your own blog that prominently features your name. A regularly updated blog should rank far higher in Google than 10-year-old content that is never changed. The stellar thinking and professionalism of your blog will show that the person in the article is either someone else or has clearly matured.

I have a generic name, so it appears in many situations that don't represent me, including pornography. But if I Google my name, the first two results are my professional web site and my blog, because unlike the other references, they're regularly updated and they include my name a lot.
posted by PatoPata at 8:29 AM on January 15, 2009

A suggestion from similar past threads, which goes along with the general if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-em advice above, is to register (if your name is fairly unique this shouldn't be a problem) and create a web presence for yourself that way. Put up some good photos, your professional resume, and keep a blog about interesting things going on in your field as they relate to you. Make sure the site looks really nice, you can get a high school or college student to design it for you inexpensively if you're not comfortable doing it yourself. You can even use this as a means of following desuetude's excellent advice-- after developing your blog a little bit, do a post about the CNN piece and explain why your opinion has changed over the past 10 years and how your experiences have shaped your understanding of the subject. You might even say something like, "if I was asked this question today, I would respond ____."
posted by baphomet at 8:33 AM on January 15, 2009

I worked on a college paper once and a guy wrote in (from a Yahoo account) asking us to remove an entry about him in the police blotter section from the website, because, you see, he was actually a CIA agent and we were totally blowing his cover. Yeah. Anyway. Not going to happen.

I also once interviewed a candidate who, when you Googled him, the first hit for his name was "(name) sucks" followed by a long article about how terrible a person he was. In the end, he didn't get the job, but the article had nothing to do with it. If you lay the blame for career problems on the article you may be doing yourself a disservice by ignoring factors you *can* control.
posted by phoenixy at 8:35 AM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might contact Google about it.
posted by Carol Anne at 9:25 AM on January 15, 2009

I would do as chrisamiller and others suggest: start a blog with your name. Link to the story in question and write as story of your own: What I learned about Money Since my CNN Interview in College.

Linking to the story shows you are not hiding anything, and writing the blog will assure that it will be in the top results. As you say, your name is unique, so having and entries with Your Name in them will put your page at the top pretty darn quick.

Don't be a perfectionist. Just do it, and you can tweak it later.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:42 AM on January 15, 2009 [4 favorites]

Perhaps OP can find a sympathetic ear somewhere in the writer's department- someone who is willing to compromise and change his/ her name to a pseudonym...

Hell no. You'd have to find a sympathetic ear from someone who is both unethical and will to put his or her entire journalism career on the line to help some stranger.
posted by Airhen at 9:58 AM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fuzzy has the best idea here. Journalists make it a point of pride not to change anything in their story for anyone and I guarantee CNN will ignore or refuse any request to retract a quote.
posted by Kirklander at 9:59 AM on January 15, 2009

Ditto everyone who says to manufacture a web presence. A company I worked for did something like this on the side. People who wanted to reinvent themselves on the web or overcome bad press paid a sum, and the company's web monkeys would work externally (leaving bland comments under the name, entering the name in google-able databases, etc.) to bump up other sites over the negative one(s).

It may take a while, though. There was an article I wrote for my college paper in which I got a fact wrong, and the commenters called me out on it. Totally embarrassing, as it was an article about a kid who passed away. Even though I'm a freelance writer with years of web credits, that damned article still comes up in the top ten under my name. Probably because people who google me still click on it.
posted by changeling at 10:23 AM on January 15, 2009

You need to boost your own organic search - start a blog, get your own domain name, post in forums related to your industry under your own name - all of those things will push the CNN post down.

I have people posting about shit I never, ever did, saying I committed crimes, crazy stuff. I have considered trying to run these people down and taking legal action, and some day I actually will do that. But for now, i agree with the people above who say that if someone won't hire you because of something you said/did as a youngster, then you don't want to work there.
posted by micawber at 5:17 PM on January 15, 2009

There's a service called reputation defender that will make astroturf-y links for you to put that one lower down in the ranking.

I don't know how much they cost-- but I do know that they are sometimes used by disreputable people to hide stuff about themselves that they don't want others to see, so don't consider this an endorsement by me of them by any means.
posted by Maias at 5:26 PM on January 15, 2009

posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:27 PM on January 15, 2009

How common is it nowadays for businesses to Google potential employees? Unless you're running for office, I'm not sure how relevant or dependable some of the results would be, especially if they don't know the context behind it.

And what if the OP had a common name? How would the business know whether the Joe Smith they're looking to hire is the same Joe Smith who's in a CNN photo proudly displaying his "Bong Hits for Jesus" banner from last week?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:14 AM on January 17, 2009

(Okay, so they'd be able to tell visually whether it's the same guy, but... you know what I mean.)
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:15 AM on January 17, 2009

« Older It must be 'cause I'm so sweet   |   Learning Unfamiliar Cultures Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.