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Tom Meagher

News nerd.

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There's always room for another two cents.

While I use Google News fairly regularly–particularly its e-mailed news alerts), I never noticed the new “comments from people in the news” function that it apparently launched last spring. It’s a fascinating idea that the NY Times recently took a look at (thanks, Slashdot for bringing it to my attention).

Let’s set aside for a moment the daunting challenges of trying to make this work in the real world. Why shouldn’t news subjects have a chance to comment on a story in which they appear, particularly on the Web where the column inches are infinite? Certainly sources have already taken advantage of the comment functions that many news organizations’ Web sites already employ. But Google has hit upon a unique twist by weighting the comments from those quoted in a story. The journalist has already gone to the effort of vetting sources and weeding out those with less substantial thoughts to add to a story. To give them a chance to comment after the fact and append it to the story can only add to the depth of the coverage.

It’s conceivable that you could give every source you interview a special URL and a password. Once the story appears in the paper, they could then choose to login and sound off. It would assuage the bruised egos of those long-winded subjects who inevitably lose much of their argument to brevity. It would also keep reporters on their toes that they could expect more than a nasty letter to the editor should they play fast and loose with the facts.

What do you think? Is there any reason we as journalists couldn’t (or shouldn’t) provide such a function on our own Web sites? Or should we let Google have all the fun?