20 March 2008

Comments Prompt Follow-up Piece

Accusations posted by visitors to a local news website resulted in a follow-up story to ‘set the record straight’.

The original article from the Bournemouth Daily Echo concerned a party of councillors which was visiting the resort’s twin town in Israel when eight students were killed in an attack on a college in Jerusalem.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that the story – headlined ‘Terrible Tragedy’ Shocks Bournemouth Party – attracted a raft of comments from users demanding to know who was funding the trip.

One comment stated: “What the hell are Bournemouth councillors doing on a freebie at the local taxpayers' expense - what a load of wasters. How dare they pretend to be working hard for local people.”

Such was the impact of the comments, three days later the Echo published a follow-up piece – headlined Trip to Israel Wasn’t a Freebie Say Councillors - through which the councillors explained that they had funded the trip themselves.

Councillor Peter Charon said of the comments: “Members of the public are entitled to make judgments on our work as councillors, though some who have commented really ought to check their facts first.”

Meanwhile, web editor Nick Rowe suggested that the incident illustrates the way communiction methods are evolving.

“It was an interesting reaction from the public. Sometimes they go down blind alleys (with comments) while at other times they are quite sharp.

“It's a good opportunity for people to have their say and it does generate stories.

“Whereas previously they might not have been motivated to put pen to paper, it’s so much easier to hit a button on a computer.”

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