The other week, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post. For reasons too long to get into, I decided I didn’t want it posted, for purely personal reasons. I wrote in and ask them to please delete the article, thanks.
Please get out your copy of Alice in Wonderland, because we’re about to dive down the rabbit hole.
This is the short version. It’s too long and convoluted, and I don’t want to live through it all again.
It took about two days for them to respond to my request that they delete the article. First, though, they asked me why. Was it a legal or factual matter? No, I explained, it was personal, and I told them why so. They kept asking more questions, however, and I kept explaining it was just personal.
And in the end -- they wouldn’t do it!
Honest. They would not delete my article.
It then took four more emails for them to even explain to me why not. And the thing is, I still don’t know why exactly. It has something to do with “transparency.” It’s an idiot reason, mind you, and anyone with authority could have overruled “policy.” Just take the thing down. But no, they wouldn’t.
What they said though was that I could rewrite it if I wanted. But I didn’t want to spend any more time on it. I’d had enough of it. No more. This took another few emails – several going unanswered -- and several days. Finally, I just got fed up and – since leaving it posted online as is wasn’t an option for me, that meant the only alternative, much as I didn’t want to, was rewriting the whole thing in a completely different way – I wrote a new version and sent it in.
And then…nothing. No response. So, I wrote back. I even wrote to one of the editors a couple of times. But nothing. I kept writing, and finally…finally, someone got back to me. This is what they wrote. (I swear this is true – )
“Thanks again for this latest submission. Per our blogger guidelines, all blog posts should be submitted as final copy. If the post contains any factual errors requiring correction, please let us know and send an itemized list of the corrections and we'll review as soon as possible.”
Sigh. So, I wrote back again. And again. And…yes, again.
And at last they wrote back. And said –
“Please send along a list of itemized updates/changes (paragraph #, line #, edit). We'll be happy to review the edits shortly thereafter.
For transparency's sake, we cannot simply swap out entire articles.
I mean, honestly, it was getting to Crazyland at this point. I wrote back to explain that I didn’t make a couple of tweaks, I’d rewritten the entire article, and to go through it line-by-line would be far too difficult.
At this point, I was ready to wave the white flag and just move on with my life. It was nuts and draining. But finally, I said, “Oh, screw it” – and sent them the most annoyingly minutely-detailed email I could enumerating every single one of the changes. It was either that or them doing nothing and leaving the article I didn’t want online.
(I also kindly included the full text because I knew if they had to do it line-by-line, they’d probably be scared off by the work required and wouldn’t do it. It would be easier to plug that in in its entirety. As I suggested in the first place…)
And I waited for a response. And waited. And wrote in to check up. And wrote again. As you might imagine, it took all of my diplomacy and patience not to scream bloody murder at that them. But I clenched my teeth and plodded on.
Last night, still not having heard anything back, I sat down to write yet another email, but decided to check the previously-posted first.
And…and they changed it!!!! The new copy is now online. And they never bothered to write back to let me know.
And this is the short version of the story.
Somehow, you have to think, “Please, could you delete the article,” would be so much easier. And considerate. And decent. And smart.
But I guess it just wasn’t transparent.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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