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public editor

Globe public editor Sylvia Stead.The Globe and Mail

Last week, I asked readers whether there was too much or too little coverage of Jian Ghomeshi. And what about the photos of him, which one reader begged The Globe and Mail to stop publishing because she and her friends found it "revolting."

More than two dozen of you wrote in from across the country, one from the United States and one from overseas. The message was pretty clear: Keep covering the news on Mr. Ghomeshi, remember that this is a turning point for society's understanding of sexual harassment and abuse of women and please, please don't run those photos any more.

Let's explore the photo issue first. I noted that since all online stories need photos, it would be hard to avoid pictures of Mr. Ghomeshi. I was correctly upbraided by a few readers on that, many of whom described the photos as smarmy or sneering publicity shots.

"It is easy to avoid," one reader said. "Simply don't allow your news judgment to be overridden by your design policy. You write, 'Every article online includes a photo,' as if this were one of the Ten Commandments. It isn't; it's just your standard practice. If you can't occasionally make an exception to your standard practice in cases where that practice does more harm than good, then you are being unreasonably inflexible and practising second-rate journalism, a journalism that does its work by formula.

"The journalistic harm that you are doing is (1) visually presenting stale news because it's all you've got, and (2) annoying the many readers who are sick of seeing Jian's smiling face, given what has happened. Remember, too, that your publication is only one of many, and hundreds of these pictures (most of them duplicates) are in our face 24/7. This further diminishes whatever value you may see in them.

"If you don't have newsworthy photos, don't publish any at all. You will, I promise, not get any letters from readers complaining that there was no picture of Jian over the latest story about him."

One small note here: It is not a journalistic reason, but a technical one that all online stories are set up to include a photo. That said, Globe Photo Editor Moe Doiron called the Ghomeshi photo issue "a perfect storm for us in some ways, a relentless story with a steady flow of updates and changes, a central subject who was in hiding and a limited number of file images to choose from."

He also said Globe photo editors "make every effort to use the most recent photos available, shot by our own photographers and/or news agencies, over publicity photos when possible. In light of the challenges we faced on this story, we'll certainly explore other solutions in the future."

Many more of you picked up on the first reader's point.

One said, "There is something jarring about these grinning images; they look like the kind of pictures that have long been used to promote his show or to present him in the full flush of his success and popularity."

Another reader put it succinctly: "These photos are not news; they show us the pre-scandal Ghomeshi, a person who no longer exists."

And what about the news coverage. Many asked relevant news questions, such as where is he, did he use his CBC cellphone, what do the police know and what happened inside the CBC? There were suggestions as well, such as including "a timeline, a collection of what others have reported, links to relevant posts made by him, notable Canadians who have signed petitions."

A few asked questions about the CBC culture. "The CBC has a very deep pool of talent to draw from, journalists with decades of experience. Yet they elevate Ghomeshi, a former D class punk star nobody ever heard of, past the entire pack? [Was it] an effort to be cool?"

Another asked "how Ghomeshi managed to get Q named after him so that the two personas became one and the same. The show was Jian, Jian was the show. It is not the job of a public broadcaster to elevate the personal status of a particular host. Hosts should be interchangeable. CBC News Network's flagship 'The National' gets far more viewership than Q ever had in an audience. Yet it's never been named 'The National with Peter Mansbridge'."

Former CBC host Linden MacIntyre raised important questions about the CBC and the problem of celebrity in the Ghomeshi case in this article last week.

But a key overriding call came from many readers that The Globe's coverage should pay more attention to the shift we are seeing in society, not only with the Ghomeshi case but also the allegations of rape against Bill Cosby. Here are some examples:

"The public stampede to support the accusing women is unprecedented in my experience. … I'd like to see you drop the focus on one person and take your reporting in a direction that would really benefit women and society."

"Regarding the article 'too much or too little on Jian Ghomeshi,' I'd like to just say, I was a victim of verbal, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of my ex-husband 30 years ago, I say keep us informed!!!!! My physical scars have healed but the nightmares still haunt me to this day. I think keeping the public informed is a GOOD thing. I feel that if you don't keep reporting it, it will fade away into nothingville… KEEP REPORTING!!!!!"

"Please continue covering what I hope will be a historical turning point in Canada. Like many women, this story resonates for me on so many levels. And it's helping the men in our lives too."

"Every time you publish an article you add to or allow for a conversation. Maybe it's not playing out on social media or around water coolers any more, but it's still generating necessary talks. I understand overload and irritation, but those folks can skip the articles. For those of us who need the momentum in order to continue talking to friends and family, articles are absolutely needed. It's a tough topic to discuss without a point of entry."

"Please continue, we can't let this slip into memory before its totally digested."

"These stories present as a way for a society to define itself. Journalists need to determine what their role is in that debate."