UPDATE: I spoke to the reporter, who tells me she was in touch with the family. They told her the father's Facebook posts were what he wanted to be made public. But this reader's core point still stands and is valid. Original post:
An interesting and compassionate note from reader Pam Smith today:
"Understandably, all of us are upset about the tragedy that befell the Bresette family when a sign at the airport fell and killed their child and injured their family. At a time of such grieving and inexplicable loss this family is going through, I can't help but feel anger at seeing that the father's private Facebook comments are being printed publicly for the whole world to see in The Star's articles and am wondering if The Star has received permission from the father to print his words."
This isn't the first time this question has come up. In fact, I consider it myself when I write the weekly "Networking" column that runs in the 913 news magazine. That's made up of Facebook posts, tweets and website comments about stories in the news.
Journalists generally consider anything published to be fair to quote in news coverage, and I have no problem with that. It doesn't matter the medium: Facebook, open blog, unprotected Twitter feed. I think it's reasonable to quote any of these sources in print. After all, it's all just another form of publishing.
But Ms. Smith makes another, fair rejoinder: Not everyone may be aware of how public something posted in social media may be, and many of the companies providing the platforms change their policies.
In that light, she considers publishing something on an open Facebook page unethical. Fair enough, though I expect many others will disagree.