Michael Dorow should have the “right to be forgotten.” There is precedent for this. Europe has a right to be forgotten law, in which people can request that information on them be removed from the Internet.
We are calling on Greg Borowski, the new Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editor, to take a stand for ethics, fairness, and standards coming out of the gate. He has a chance to chart a new course and send a signal. We are calling on Borowski to do the right thing and delete the media’s disgraceful Michael Dorow story.
You may think newspapers simply don’t erase the public record. Think again. They do. There is growing recognition in the American news media that, in the age of SEO and Google, some news reporting unfairly prevents a person from ever learning from past mistakes and conducting a productive life. The stain of Google infamy is a greater punishment than some offenses deserve; it is a brutal public stockade and flogging that never expires; it is a life sentence for minor transgressions, a “scarlet letter G” you can never remove. Europe is way ahead of the United States on this, with right-to-be-forgotten laws.
Prominent, prestigious newspapers in the United States have “right to be forgotten” protocols. The Boston Globe, for example, has a “fresh start initiative.” Their website says, “We are not in the business of rewriting the past, but we don’t want to stand in the way of a regular person’s ability to craft their future.”
Never was that truer than in the case of Michael Dorow, age 19, who was accused by Dan Bice’s pile of anonymous sources in connection with a fentanyl death. Michael Dorow is the teenage son of former Supreme Court candidate, Jennifer Dorow, a conservative.
Michael Dorow was not running for anything. He’s a teenager. He’s a private citizen. He was never arrested for the death in question. He was never charged in it. He was never even publicly named a suspect in it! The available public records in the case, which is two years old, don’t even name him!
Yet the Journal Sentinel did!
Greg Borowski should also create a fresh start initiative at the Journal Sentinel. He should start by doing the right thing for Michael Dorow’s future. Delete the story. If he is ever arrested or charged, bring it back.
Michael Dorow, 19, was publicly accused of nothing by police and prosecutors, yet the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice recklessly and shamefully named him, implying, with no solid evidence, that he might be responsible for a young man’s tragic drug death. They propelled him through their news cannon as fodder in a contentious Supreme Court race. After their stories, Michael’s family had to move him out of state because he was being tracked and followed. The cost is real. Anyone who saw Jennifer’s daughter crying on stage during her graceful concession speech can see that.
Children should not have to pay the price for their parents’ political campaigns, especially if there is no solid evidence they did anything wrong.
The media also handled Dorow’s situation with a glaring double standard.
In contrast, Elijah Combs was accused of murdering the Milwaukee Common Council president’s niece and leading Milwaukee police on a dangerous pursuit that ended with a crash and his suicide. Combs shot at officers, police say. He was given a weak sentence by left-wing Supreme Court judge Janet Protasiewicz for a brutal domestic violence case.
Even after all of those developments, as of March 1, 2023, the Milwaukee news media still hadn’t named him more than a day after the homicide. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had NOTHING about Combs on their website. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has admitted the newspaper typically does not name people until they are charged with crimes.
Unless you’re the son of a conservative running for higher office, apparently. They violated their own code of ethics by allowing Bice’s half-baked, unproven innuendos to hit print.
Spectrum News and the liberal Wisconsin Examiner should delete their stories naming Michael Dorow too. They were just following Bice.
Wisconsin Right Now subsequently wrote a counter-story pointing out all of these facts, so at least there would be something on the Internet to counter the Bice hit piece when people Google the poor kid’s name. If they delete theirs, we will delete the story we wrote that is coming to Dorow’s defense. It reads, “Dan Bice’s Reckless & Unfair Attack on Jennifer Dorow’s Son.”
Michael Dorow is just starting out his adult life. He will be applying for jobs soon. For colleges, possibly. He will enter the dating world. And, forevermore, he will be defamed through a simple Google search.
In the age of Google, you don’t get to erase stories like that. They don’t ever go away. They don’t get old. They used to say that something was “old news” if it was more than a day and a half old. But, in the age of Google, everything is “new news” to the person who is just discovering it by searching your name for the first time.
Every story, every mistake, every allegation, no matter how old, no matter how flimsy, is every day’s front page. It is the tyranny of Google. It’s an unfair price.
Have some empathy for goodness sake. Michael Dorow IS ONLY 19! AND HE WAS NEVER EVEN NAMED A SUSPECT!
Look, his mother lost the primary. There’s nothing to be politically gained by it anymore. But he’s got to live with it. He didn’t choose this. He didn’t run for office.
According to the First Amendment Encyclopedia, “the right to be forgotten is a legal concept recognized in the European Union and other parts of the world but a concept foreign and contrary to established First Amendment principles.”
The article explains, “The push for ‘the right to be forgotten’ comes from the idea that one’s prior misdeeds or acts of bad judgment should not come up on Google searches or other online search engines forever, that individuals ought to have the ability to remove negative references. This concept places tension between privacy and free expression.”
As noted, some newspapers do this in the United States voluntarily, even though American courts don’t recognize the right, and it extends beyond the Boston Globe. Multiple newspapers have launched right to be forgotten programs, where people can petition to get their past mistakes removed from stories and newspaper online archives and search results to give them a second chance at life.
Never is that more needed than in the case of Michael Dorow.
In this case, there is no evidence that Michael Dorow has even made a mistake. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel should delete Bice’s disgraceful story.
And they should explain why they didn’t name a felon accused of murder right away, but they were perfectly willing to name a teenager who wasn’t.
Greg, do the right thing. We are watching. And we will be the first to applaud if you do.