Patch memo tells editors how to deal with complaints about ‘Where Divorced People Live’ posts

Patch sites across the country have been running posts headlined, “Where Do the Divorced Women Live in Town” and “Where Do the Divorced Men Live in Town.”


A Romenesko reader writes in an email: “I guess Patch is doubling down on clickbait as that’s the only way I can understand why this is a story.”

News director John Ness sent this memo to local editors explaining how they should deal with reader complaints:

More on the Divorce Maps, and Data Overall. Some of you got pushback on yesterday’s divorce map. The FAQ for weekdaily data is here to outline what we’re doing with data and how to best present it. Click through for the full rundown, but here are some excerpts you may find helpful.

The big idea to stress overall: Data is powerful stuff. We know that and we value reader feedback. Our goal with this ongoing series of maps is to allow users to understand their neighborhoods in a diversity of ways they didn’t before. We’re bringing increased transparency and context to our coverage with these maps, but we’re devoted to doing it responsibly.

There are a few important things to stress when you get complaints or questions about data. You can find more in the FAQ:

* Explain what you think is interesting locally, to guide the conversation in a constructive directions. (You can see examples of how to do this in the FAQ doc)

* Stress that we don’t publish discreet locations of individuals in these maps. A census tract is far too wide to target for crime. Some other news orgs have been criticized private residences. We don’t do that with these maps.

* Stress that these articles don’t exist in a vacuum, but are part of an ongoing series. In its totality, the series puts information about your town at your fingertips. If you see us cover one side of an issue, we’ve likely done the other side or will do it soon. If we ask about men, we’ll do women the next week, as we did with divorce #s. If we look at cheap houses one week, we’ll look at expensive houses the week after. Point your readers to the roundup you’ll be doing on Sunday. (We’re going to point users to the Sunday roundup in today’s post.)

* Patch: “These maps have a hundred uses that have nothing to do with shaming people”

Update on 2/27/2015: An earlier version incorrectly identified the author of the memo.