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A simple request

Another one of those journalism ethics situations cropped up today. An employee of a local businesses asked us to remove comments from a story on the Chronicle website because they were, the employee said, incorrect.

The Context

On Sunday, I published my second story about Montana Opticom’s $64 million stimulus award to bury fiber-optic cable in Gallatin County. Many local companies questioned the government’s decision to award the money, enough that it prompted a follow-up story.

Beneath that story, two commenters posted comments critical of one of the companies mentioned in the article. I’m not going to tell you which one. You can figure that out for yourself if you really want to, and besides, the company’s name is not really important to the ethical issues at hand.

One of the commenters was angry with the service he was receiving from the company, saying that it was the only company he had available in his area. The other commenter posted details of the broadband plans available to him through the company.

The Request

This morning, I watched two “report as abuse” e-mails come into my e-mail inbox, flagging both of these comments as “abuse.” By the e-mail address, I could tell that the person doing the flagging was an employee of the company.

Sure enough, a few minutes later I received an e-mail from the same person asking me to remove the comments because they were incorrect.

To provide some more context, I must in fairness say that we had, on a past story, removed a comment at the company’s request because it was, a different employee of the company said, incorrect.

In retrospect, that was the wrong thing to do.

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