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18Feb 2014

Washington Post spokesperson announces paper will stop reprinting health and science press releases.

Washington Post spokesperson announces paper will stop reprinting health and science press releases.

The Washington Post announced Tuesday that it will stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section following the disclosure of the practice by the Knight Science Journalism Tracker last Friday.

I received the following email today from Kristine C. Coratti, the Post's spokesperson:

Hi Paul,

Thank you for your patience!

Your post raised good questions and we are discontinuing the feature.

Thank you again,

In the post last week, I asked, "What is the Washington Post doing reprinting press releases? The Post's website groups the Health & Science Section under national news. Is the Post so strapped that it can't report its own national news, but instead must give over its pages to universities trying to promote themselves? Would the Post, with its history as an aggressive government watchdog, turn over its pages to press releases from the government?"

Apparently, the Post will no longer turn over any of its pages to others, except when such pages are clearly labeled as advertising.

It's a tribute to the Post that it responded so quickly.

-Paul Raeburn



I'm with Lynne – long time no natter – good on yer Paul for naming and shaming.

I wonder how much this practice goes on without the signposting that the Post gave it.

Heaven only knows what the first response is about. Does it have anything to do with the issue in question?

Um, about that "turn over it's page to press releases from the govt., see Operation Mockingbird: "According to Deborah Davis in Katharine the Great; "By the early 1950s, Wisner 'owned' respected members of The New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles."[3] Wisner called this propaganda network the "Mighty Wurlitzer"...

.... and : "The usual methodology was placing reports developed from intelligence provided by the CIA to witting or unwitting reporters. Those reports would then be repeated or cited by the preceding reporters which in turn would then be cited throughout the media wire services. These networks were run by people with well-known liberal but pro-American big business and anti-Soviet views such as William Paley (CBS), Henry Luce (Time and Life Magazine), Arthur Hays Sulzberger (New York Times), Alfred Friendly (managing editor of the Washington Post), Jerry O'Leary (Washington Star), Hal Hendrix (Miami News), Barry Bingham, Sr. (Louisville Courier-Journal), James Copley (Copley News Services) and Joseph Harrison (Christian Science Monitor).[8]"


and: " According to Alex Constantine (Mockingbird: The Subversion Of The Free Press By The CIA), in the 1950s, "some 3,000 salaried and contract CIA employees were eventually engaged in propaganda efforts". Wisner was able to constrain newspapers from reporting about certain events, including the CIA plots to overthrow the governments of Iran"

Tipping my hat to you, Paul.  Congratulations.  It will be a case study in my class this week.  


"It's a tribute to the Post that it responded so quickly." I don't agree. Of course it's preferable that they discontinue this practice, but the fact that they started it in the first place is and will remain a signifier of editorial ineptitude, laziness, and contempt for readers. And it doesn't say anything remotely good about WaPo editors that they couldn't see the problems with this arrangement of their own volition. Embarrassment is not an effective substitute for good judgment.

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