Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Readers Debate Times-Union Play of Paul Hill's Execution

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Readers Debate Times-Union Play of Paul Hill's Execution

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Clark, Times-Union Reader Advocate

Some readers saw the extensive front-page coverage in the Sept. 4 paper of the execution of Paul Hill as sensationalism.

Hill was given the death sentence for killing a Fernandina Beach abortion doctor and his escort. Critics said the coverage was inflammatory. It supposedly gave a convicted murdered a podium, as illustrated by this subheadline: "Hill's last message on abortion: 'Do what you have to do to stop it.'"

So I asked our thoughtful reader e-mail group (send me an e-mail if you'd like to join) to sort out some of these issues. Once again, the readers had many interesting comments. Here are excerpts.

-- Reuel Platt, St. Simons Island, Ga.: "The coverage gave him the wide publicity that he wanted! I would have put the story in the middle of the first section."

-- Al Kalter, Fruit Cove: "It's a story of national interest and an issue of national concern, so I think the placement was appropriate. However, featuring a huge picture of this guy smiling was not."

-- Frank Reynolds, Deercreek: "If the newspaper handcuffed itself over concern for giving free publicity to someone or some group with a political agenda, we'd be stuck with only weather, sports and comics on the front page."

-- Beth Perry, San Jose: "Let him have his 15 minutes of infamy. He wasn't around to read it anyway."

-- Henry Moyer, Westside: "I approve of the front-page coverage given to Paul Hill because I think that his sentence should have been debated."

-- Jerry Sinclair, Regency: "This was a unique story with so many different dynamics and angles. To ignore the facts or 'bury' the story would have been an insult to the readers."

-- Rick Robinson: "It is clear that the coverage of this story was less than objective by all of the local media. Local sensibilities clearly favor the ending of abortion. Local sensibilities clearly favor the death penalty. The newspaper could show leadership by exploring this contradiction, and it should have done so before the execution countdown became national news . …

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