AP reports that a Pennsylvania newspaper has fired a reporter for posting anonymously to forums on the newspaper's website.
According to the story, the reporter, Justin Quinn, began posting to "set the record straight" and eventually started adding his own opinions.
Quinn should have known better. But so should his editor, Ray Shaw.
As I've said many times before, we have to stop pretending that we're above the community conversation and start getting involved. The newspaper apparently has a policy against reporters expressing their personal opinions about areas they cover -- and that's fine. But is there a positive policy on community engagement?
Journalism today is a conversation, not a lecture. The newspaper's reporters should be posting on the forums ... but under their real names, not pseudonyms. And they should be getting positive coaching from their editor about how constructively engage with the community.
This isn't just about correcting rumors and misunderstandings, although that's part of it.
Ultimately it's about doing better work. It's about listening as well as speaking. It's about being in better contact with the community, hearing a broader selection of viewpoints, understanding what real people are thinking and what they think is important.
I hope the Lancaster paper sees this as an opportunity to move forward, not backward.