Editors respond to comments debate

On Monday, after a reporter and photographer covered the homecoming of the USS Mexico to the Groton sub base, editors posted a photo on theday.com. Later, a different photograph and story were added, and the updated version was much different than what had been originally posted.

How we handled this has raised some questions.

Some readers had commented on the initial photograph of a baby running into a father's arms, and those comments remained when the photograph and article were about a sailor proposing to his same-sex partner.

We were doing what we do many times a day — updating the website with the latest information. If a photograph is ready before the article, we post the photo first and then attach the article later. Often, we post a short article and then update it as more information is available. Unlike the print edition, theday.com is dynamic, changing by the minute. Our web team spends much of the day getting the latest news to readers, and we try our best to let readers know when we've updated a developing story.

In the past, there were sometimes two versions of a story on the website: the original breaking news and the one that appeared in The Day. Readers understandably found this confusing and they complained that the comments were divided between the two versions. So now there's just one version, which can go through numerous updates, with the comments remaining as the story changes.

In this instance, the story changed dramatically and we can see how comments posted about the stand-alone photo of the baby would seem out of place with the story and photo about the proposal.

In the future, we hope to be more aware of this type of situation and will take the comments into account when updating stories. In this case, it would have been better to have left the stand-alone story as is and posted a separate story and photo on the proposal.

Questions also have been raised about the fairness of using one reader's comments in an editorial on the subject. Theday.com's user agreement states that we can use comments without permission, and readers who post comments on the website need to be aware of that.

Whether using this reader's comments in an editorial in this instance was fair or not is a matter of an opinion, and we appreciate that readers have shared theirs.

— Tim Cotter
Managing Editor, The Day

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