The Lancaster (PA) Intelligencer Journal recently fired court reporter Jason Quinn for posting anonymous comments on the public-forum pages of the IJ's website.
Quinn, a reporter at the IJ for six years, explained his actions:
He said he began posting to "set the record straight" about topics he covered but eventually began offering his opinions as well. News stories printed in Lancaster's three newspapers are often the topic of Talkback discussions.
"It is extremely hard to sit idly by when people are misstating facts," Quinn said. "They obviously have not read the article. It's just hard to sit there and take it."
At this point, he may be the first reporter dismissed for anonymous postings. Michael Hiltzik, Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter for the Los Angeles Times, had his column and blog discontinued and has been reassigned for posting multiple anonymous comments, using different pseudonyms, to the blog of Los Angeles District Attorney Patrick Frey. The comments were part of an on-going "blog feud" between the liberal Hiltzick and conservative Frey. Blogging policy at the Times did not forbid its columnist-bloggers from leaving comments on other blogs, but prohibited anonymous comments
It is not known if the Intelligencer Journal had any policy prohibiting forum or blog postings at the time of Quinn's postings. It can be argued, however, that a reporter adhering to the ethics of journalism might not need a stated policy. Kelly McBride, an expert on ethics in journalism at the Poynter Institute, believes traditional guidlines for opinion in print also extend to opinion online:
"If you express opinions that are critical of a public agency that you cover, and the public knows that you have expressed those opinions — not reported facts, but opinions — the members of the public have reason to doubt your ability to fairly cover that agency," she said.
Read more at pennlive.com