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No apologies

The Stars and Stripes Ombudsman has recently blogged that his printed column has been blocked from publication. The current Stars and Stripes ombudsman has never been censored, steered or controlled. And I offer no apologies for adhering to ethical and legal responsibilities in publishing a newspaper.

The ombudsman’s columns have always been edited with his knowledge and consent for spelling, grammar, space, propriety and legality before they appear on the opinion page. They have always been edited by the same opinion page editor. That editor, and that editor alone, has decided when a column is ready for publication and on what date it will be published. Senior editors have never interfered in his editing or made any decision on the timing of publication.

Out with the old comments, in with the new

Today, we are launching a new, improved system for reader comments on Stars and Stripes stories, as part of our continuing effort to enhance the comment boards and encourage a robust but respectful dialogue.

The new comment system still permits users to post anonymous comments, but it requires you to provide a valid email address first. And, if you choose to register with the system, you will gain added benefits, such as the ability to monitor responses to your comments.

We blew it--and so did the Army

A story we published on Nov. 15 about the Army’s investigation into a fatal helicopter crash in Germany earlier this year has caused considerable anguish to the families of the three deceased crewmembers and angered Army public affairs officials as well, all of which is on full display in the comment thread attached to the story. So it’s worth taking a closer look.

Fundamentally, the story, by Stars and Stripes reporter Mark Patton, is a straightforward account of the results of the Army’s investigation into the crash. The story noted that investigators discovered several procedural anomalies associated with the Black Hawk helicopter training flight, but that ultimately no cause for the fatal crash could be determined.

Another comment on comments

Ever since we gave stripes.com users the ability to post comments on stories last spring, we have been impressed with the general level of maturity, sobriety and thoughtfulness exhibited by our readers. Where other newspaper websites routinely find their comment boards overrun with trolls, miscreants and other undesirable Internet species, the caliber of comments on stripes.com has remained high.

Even when afforded the Internet’s cloak of anonymity, Stars and Stripes readers tend to conduct themselves with the honor and integrity that are the hallmarks of military service.

Lean to the left, lean to the right

In a letter to the editor from a forward operating base in Afghanistan, Spc. Thomas McCormick took us to task this week for what he sees as a right-wing bias in our opinion pages.

He suggested that in our zeal to serve the "U.S. military community, wherever they fight and wherever they live’’ we had wrongfully assumed that the community was “Republican, Sarah Palin-loving, Barack Obama-hating and Democrat-bashing.”

Good news, bad news on the comments boards

This is a good news/bad news story.

The good news is that our new high school sports pages on the stripes.com website are a huge hit with readers. We have built pages for every DODDS high school in Europe and the Pacific, where you can find game coverage, schedules, team information and more. Plus, readers are encouraged to post their own team and game photos for everyone to see and share.

A peek behind the curtain

Welcome to Editor’s Notes, a new blog where the senior editors of Stars and Stripes will take you behind the scenes into the decisions we make as we prepare the daily newspaper and website that serve as vital information lifelines for hundreds of thousands of American servicemembers and their families.

From the selection of stories and photos that run on the front page to the line-up of columnists and cartoonists we feature, we know that our readers sometimes question our editorial choices and priorities. Often, these questions come in the form of emails you send to us directly. Sometimes, they are posed in Letters to the Editor, or posted in comments to an article on our website.

 
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