Monday, September 24, 2007

Bylines in Advertising Sections

Here's an oddity: Howie Kurtz at The Washington Post reports that staff reporters' stories were used in an advertising section. We need more info: were the articles pro-GM? Did the stories run in full? Were they edited in some inappropriate way? Does The Post plan to continue this with other ads? Does The Post's union have a say in this? Inquiring minds should want to know.

When General Motors ran a six-page advertising supplement in last week's Washington Post, touting its environmental credentials, many newsroom staffers were upset. The reason: The section was filled with articles bearing bylines of Post writers.

Why was the paper lending its credibility to an automaker that it covers? Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. says that because the stories were previously published, "we were not doing journalism specifically for this section."

Downie says he is undecided about such cooperation with future advertisers: "I'm not sure where the line is on that, and that's why I agreed to go this far."

Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell said in her weekly critique that the use of the bylines "bothers the hell out of me" and that "it doesn't blur the line. It obliterates it."

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