Boing Boing has linked a post talking about an article by Laurie David about a recent rejection by the NTSA of 50,000 free copies of the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” for schools. Both the Boing Boing and the Conscious Earth postings are up-front about the fact that the author is a producer of the movie, though Conscious Earth does somewhat misleadingly say The news was buried deep in the Washington Post website and reported by Laurie David.
Misleading because in fact it’s not news, at least not in the sense that it was reported by a journalist in a researched article. The problem is, you wouldn’t necessarily know that if you follow the link as it was provided by the Conscious Earth posting. The extent of the clue to where that article appeared is one line: “Sunday, November 26, 2006; B01” If you happen to know that section B is the Opinion pages on a Sunday, vs the rest of the week when it’s the Metro pages. The page in normal context is marginally better, but still not great: in a font smaller than the column text itself you can see the “breadcrumb” that indicates this is under Opinion: washingtonpost.com > Opinions > Outlook
Compare that to the New York Times print view of an op-ed by a contributing writer (annoying registration or BugMeNot.com required) which clearly states “Op-ed” at the top. Their standard view also has another up on the Post: since they’re not forcing the reader to click a second time to get the second half of the article there’s no possibility someone will read to the bottom of the page and still not see the paragraph indicating the author’s identity. Since WaPo wants you to click again (for more advertising pageviews) you might give up halfway and not see the author’s affiliations that reveal his or her allegiances.
For the record, I don’t think Conscious Earth is being deliberate in this – the fault here is very clearly with WaPo, who hasn’t put enough effort into differentiating their online articles. I’m sympathetic to the challenge, but this is one they need to rise to toot-sweet. Having partisan articles – no matter how much I might be inclined to agree with the conclusions therein – that look just like reportage is something that diminishes their credibility.
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs