Mar 262010
 March 26, 2010  Posted by  Featured News, Online, U.S.

Henry J. Gomez reports:

By unmasking an anonymous poster at its companion Web site, The Plain Dealer finds itself in an ethical quandary, stirring a debate that balances the public’s need to know against the privacy concerns of online participants.

On one side are experts who believe the newspaper has violated a trust by exploring and revealing information about a critic. On the other are those, including Plain Dealer Editor Susan Goldberg, who believe that information is too important not to see the light of day.

Until this week, “lawmiss” was known only as one of thousands who, often known only by nicknames, share views on news blogs and stories reported at

But after investigating a comment directed at the relative of a Plain Dealer reporter, editors learned that lawmiss had the same e-mail address as Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold. A closer look revealed that the user had offered opinions on three of Saffold’s cases, including the capital murder trial of accused serial killer Anthony Sowell.

Read more on The Plain Dealer. The article contains reaction statements from a number of organizations and individuals.

Related: Anonymous online comments are linked to the personal e-mail account of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold

What do you think?  Should the paper have delved into her identity on the basis of her comments?  Even if you agree that once the newspaper knew her identity that it was too newsworthy not to reveal, should they ever have been in the position of knowing her identity?

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