News Leadership 3.0

June 25, 2008

Does HelloKittyLove08 play in print?

Do unattributed online comments
belong in the print newspaper?

Pat Thornton has launched an interesting discussion over at beatblogging.org about whether news organizations use online comments in print and whether they require strict attribution. Thornton’s survey of five news organizations indicates the old gold standard of strict attribution in print may be melting. He asks:

“Maybe we need to get used to online handles like HelloKittyLove08. Is that really that much less reliable than me telling a print reporter my name is John Smith when I’m interviewed at the gas station? Or does my name change the quality of my comment?”

I have railed against the unfairness of granting anonymity to the powerful (think Beltway) while publishing the names of more vulnerable people who wandered unintentionally onto the public record (think crime victims). So the idea that the Web may be leveling that playing field intrigues me (even though in my old-fashioned journalistic heart, I’d prefer strict attribution).

That said, I think use of non-attributed quotes may be OK when they are representative of the overall online response. An example might be people’s online comments about why they support one presidential candidate over another or what issues are most important to them as voters. Or comments about why a news organization’s coverage of a local issue misses the mark. In cases like these, the fact that many people express an opinion makes up for the lack of a named source.

I’m less enthusiastic about cheap shot comments - such as personal attacks on individual public figures - that may enliven the report but add little meaning to the conversation.

How does your organization deal with unattributed online comments in print? Please add your thoughts in comments below or visit www.beatblogging.org to join the discussion.

 

Comments

An example might be people’s online comments about why they support one presidential candidate over another or what issues are most important to them as voters.


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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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