Paying attention to reader comments

I read two interesting New York Times pieces in the last few weeks where the reporters responded to reader’s questions.

First was David Rhode’s five-part series on being kidnapped by the Taliban.  Rhode was held by the Taliban for 7 months and 10 days, and recounted his experience (and dramatic escape!) in a five-part series printed in the Times.  The story itself was incredibly fascinating, but I found the Q&A to be one the best parts.

Some commenters were grateful for Rhode’s story and wished him the best of luck in the future. Some asked for more insight on the relations between Pakistan and the Taliban. Others questioned the accuracy and method of his account.  More were angry he got into the situation in the first place.

The other was on teen runaways in Medford, Ore.  The two-part series tells how some, if not most, runaways turn to prostitution to survive and what agencies are trying to do to help the problem.  The Q&A is here.

In this story, most commenters asked how to get involved, which is really great.  Others questioned the reporter’s ethics while with these kids.  Finally, some commenters shed perspective on new angles for the story.

I really encourage everyone to read these stories and the Q&As.  I find it fascinating to read what people get out of these stories.  We all read the exact same thing, but there were so many different interpretations.  I also think it’s great reporters are taking the time to respond to reader comments.  The Internet has made it so much easier for reporters to communicate with their audience and actually allotting time to respond makes it seem  like a conversation.

Do you find Q&As interesting? Should reporters be responding to their readers?

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