This is nothing new for anyone who has been following the story of Mike Allen's Politico "Playbook" and his organization regularly blurring the lines between what could be called "journalism" (although I'd use the term lightly when it comes to anything Politico does) and paid advertisements, but even for their "standards" (or lack of) this is pretty awful to put it mildly.
After this latest fiasco, perhaps this should be their new logo:
When Politico ran an article last year titled “What BP Owes America,” a big disclaimer was scrolled across the top of the piece: “Opinion.” The article, written by the President of the National Audubon Society, argued that BP needed to take more responsibility for the devastating environmental effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
When Politico Magazine ran an article on Wednesday titled “No, BP Didn’t Ruin The Gulf,” there was no disclaimer. The article, written by an executive of BP, argued that the Gulf of Mexico has “inherent resilience” when it comes to oil spills and that environmentalists are overreacting about its impacts.
In addition to lacking a disclaimer, the article did not disclose that the article was written by BP senior vice president of communications Geoff Morrell until the bottom of the piece. So, to an objective observer, the article looks, on its face, like a regular piece of journalism, written by a journalist employed by Politico Magazine.
This lack of attribution is a problem, most notably because it tricks readers into thinking they’re getting something they’re not. Readers have to go through ten paragraphs of someone telling them that the environmental impact of BP’s historic oil spill was of “short duration and in a limited geographic area” before they know that the person they’re listening to is one of BP’s top executives.
Why? Why not just put that disclosure at the top of the article? A Politico spokesperson told ThinkProgress that all opinion articles have the attribution and affiliation of the author at the bottom of the page, which looks to be true. But all other articles have an immediate disclaimer that the piece is “opinion.” Why not on this article?
It could have to do with the fact that BP, as other journalists have pointed out, is one of the most frequent advertisers on Politico’s daily email newsletter “Playbook.” A week-long ad in Playbook goes for about $35,000, and BP seems to buy those ads a lot. Read on...
And as Cenk linked with their You Tube video, The LA Times Michael Hiltzik has more here: BP offers a lesson in how to sugarcoat an environmental disaster.
For anyone not familiar with Geoff Morrell, he went from shilling for the Department of Defense as the Press Secretary there to shilling for BP as "senior vice president of communications." Sell your soul to the right people and you can rake in the big bucks.