Fun Facts From An Editor: The Stuff We Redact

Heyyy, editor here! This is something I’ve wanted to talk about in a forum-type setting for a long time.

One of the topics I see in the comments a lot is redacted or “censored” information from stories. I’m sure you’re familiar: [Burger Chain], [Daughter], [Blended Coffee Drink], etc. And people often ask why we do that.

Basically, we redact information to protect both our writers and ourselves. No one wants to be fired because they griped about a coworker or a boss on our site! And we don’t need to get into legal trouble with any major companies for hosting stories that they might claim are slanderous/libelous or anything like that.

But sometimes (and these are the ones we get more comments about) we redact things simply because they were already redacted when the story was submitted! One particular story comes to mind (can’t remember the specific title at the moment) in which someone talked about a relative’s recipe for a dish and said something about [dish ingredients] rather than actually saying what was in it. We had some rather confused and grumpy comments saying that we were getting a little ridiculous with the censorship. Turns out, that’s exactly how we received that story! Unless the story makes no sense without the information, we’re not going to make stuff up just to un-redact things the authors have seen fit to redact.

Has the word “redact” lost its meaning for you yet? Do y’all have any questions for the editing team about redacted information in stories?

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How do you deal with stories where what would normally be redacted are vital for the story to work? I submitted a story a few months ago where it is absolutely vital that my first name is included, or the story would not read as well.

In that instance I did include a permission line, along with my email address in case you wanted to double check. I’ve no idea if it will be published; hopefully it will.

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I remember at least one story (could be more) on the website where they actually used a name of a particular ( Royal Ice-cream soft serve fast food restaurant). Most other times when resturants are mention it’s (red head girl, coffee house with famous Canadian hockey player, golden arches, etc).

https://notalwaysright.com/should-have-eaten-fear-for-breakfast/81849/

https://notalwaysright.com/acting-like-a-queen/196335/

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@The_Red_Pen I think you might want to make a note on one story-can’t remember the name of it at the moment. But I can remember the details (as others can tell you I’m the main NAR archvist).

The details: OP is showing a potential client at a daycare around… OP tells the client’s son not to do this and the Mom has a fit. And then the manager steps in and says something. Op gets upset because she thinks she’s going to get “fired”. But what I do remember is the original version posted said that OP was 11/12. But sometime between when it was posted and you guys “fixed” it and OP was either 16 or 17.

And people who didn’t read the story until much later get telling us in the comments to “Read the story… it says OP was teen” despite a lot of comments saying that the original posted version it said OP was 11/12.

found it!

Less serious question: Do you ever play madlibs with all the redacted words?
Or have an out of context list of redacted nouns. xP

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So I guess we shouldn’t ask for a “reveal” button… or that recipe. :wink:

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Context definitely matters. We try to use our best judgment on things like that. A sale on Pepsi mentioned in a story isn’t likely to get anyone in trouble. :stuck_out_tongue: And things get cumbersome when, for example, a customer asks an employee to list available drink options and they do so.

If the point of the story is, for example, that your name is Stephen but your aunt insists on spelling it Steven, we’ll likely leave that in. But many of our more regular readers/submitters make a point to change the name or write it in such a way that no name is even mentioned. “Let’s say my name is Sara. My aunt insists on spelling it Sarah.” “My name is usually spelled one of two ways. I spell it one way, but my aunt insists on spelling it another.”

I’m getting longwinded. tl;dr, we just try to be careful to preserve the intention of the story without getting anyone in trouble!

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We don’t, but this is a fun idea! We do periodically send each other particularly funny spelling errors or wrong words we find in stories. For example:

They meant to say: “I am a new hire.” They said: “I am a new higher.”
“I went to the grossery store…”
I also had a giggle over the fired employee who “screamed obscurities” on his way out of the shop in a story.

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what about people misspelling “customer” as costumer ?

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I pretty much get that every day. I’ve actually started a word search/replace for that and scan each story batch to make sure when they say “costumer” it really is a creator/seller of costumes.

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This is slightly off topic, but what makes you guys choose a story / omit a story. I’ve submitted a few stories myself a couple got posted a couple did not. I was just curious as to why that would be. Also, why does it take so long for stories to post sometimes? *also I realize text is hard to interpret tone, I am in no way shape or form complaining lol I just am genuinely curious.
Thank you :upside_down_face:

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There are a ton of factors involved, and we have a (flexible) list of criteria stories need to meet. Some stories get dumped right off the bat if they’re unreadable (spelling/grammar-wise), don’t make any sense, are too similar to an existing story, or feature the author being racist, homophobic, sexist, or otherwise bigoted in some way.

Beyond that, we look mostly for stories that are well-written, funny, and/or satisfying. It’s sort of hard to quantify what makes/breaks a story. I’ve been reading NAR stories for years, even before I joined the team. There’s a certain style that our stories have that I can just sort of… feel.

As far as the length of time it takes… we schedule our stories to release at intervals throughout each day. That way, there’s a pretty steady stream of content for y’all to read! If we just immediately edited and pushed out every (publishable) story as we received it, we’d run out of content faster.

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Ok that makes sense, I will say nothing I’ve ever submitted were sexist, homophobic, racist etc. In my opinion they were easy to read etc. So that’s very interesting. I do like the intervals thing though, that makes perfect sense. Thank you for replying to my off topic question I appreciate it. :slight_smile:

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I know this might sound a bit over thinking but could you consider a different mark up for details that are redacted and details that were omitted in the original. I’m not sure what, maybe different set of parentheses, [stuff that gets redacted] and {when original was vague already} or something of the sort.

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Redacting is admittedly annoying, but what confuses me the most is when details are redacted but enough clues are in that we could identify the company in question anyway. For example, instead of saying McDonalds, a story might mention the golden arches.

And then we come to things being removed or redacted that are vital to the story - especially if you come from outside the US. There are so many times when I haven’t understood a US centric story because it focused on something unique to the US. And I still haven’t figured tipping out

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I know what you mean. I remember when this story was published:

The only way I could get it to work as an NAR story was if I assumed that there was a store called Best Buy. I have no idea if the OP left the name out or it was edited out by the NAR team.

In any case, there were a LOT of comments about the lack of information essential to the story, and I was left wondering if whoever approved it for putting on the main site assumed that everyone would know all about this US based store.

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While on this topic, might we know what’s up with redacting the name of [a certain health crisis]? I read in one comment that it’s to prevent people searching for The Disease (BTW, are we allowed to write out its name?) getting NaR as a top result if there are several mentions of The Disease on the same page and thus search engines considering that page a relevant site for info about The Disease. Is this correct?

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@KillerTomato or @wesley might be able to answer this one better than I can, but basically, you’re on the right track. Certain words or phrases are on our “avoid” list for various reasons related to search engines or ad providers.

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Broadly speaking, that one mostly stems from Google and FB’s policies regarding content from a non-news source. There’s been a lot of ambiguity on what is and isn’t allowed, and so we opted to play it safe while still publishing content related to it. Comments get affected as they are considered part of the page content.

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I’d be curious to know whether or not this story came in redacted, as quite a few of us in the comments found all the humour got lost through the censoring

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