Toronto Star’s “You be the Editor” challenge reveals why we don’t let the public edit newspapers

In the Toronto Star’s annual “You be the Editor” challenge, public
editor Kathy English enlisted readers to decide whether they would
“publish” or “not publish” certain judgements the Star newsroom made in
2010, including front-page photos of Russell Williams in girl’s
underwear and headlines equating a fat kid to an Eastern god. 1,700 readers offered their opinions.

Questions included publishing details of a motorcycle fatality’s strewn body parts — including a severed head in a helmet (55% wouldn’t publish), using the headline “Buddha-like child quites smoking” (77% claim they have thought of something more imaginative), while 66% said they would have dropped the page 1 headline “Try her slut’s spaghetti” for something less unappetizing.

While English originally agreed with reader comments that a powerful and distrubing photo of Haitians watching the beating of a suspected looter shouldn’t have run on page 1, she’s “not so sure now.” 60% would have preferred the image inside instead.
TTC napper by Jason Wieler
Another question involved publishing citizen photo of a sleeping TTC employee:

“An article about the death of a TTC collector who had been caught catnapping on the job in a photo that went viral online, reports that the incident caused the man great distress. Do you republish the photo in reporting on his death?

“74 per cent would not publish. “No, you already wrote that the photo caused the man great distress, it’s only sensationalism to publish it again,” Barb Armstrong said. I’m with the strong majority.”

As for the Star‘s front-page pairing of a graphic photo of convicted rapist and murderer Russell Williams paired with the same man in full military regalia, readers were split 50/50. “This was a tough call but I think the newsroom did the courageous thing here,” English writes.