Why is ProPublica Writing Articles for the Washington Post?

My “Obama Wants Indefinite Detention Power” post was based on a widely-cited WaPo piece by Dafna Linzer and Peter Finn. I didn’t want to derail the discussion there with a sidebar but there’s an odd journalism angle here.  The authors are bylined as “ProPublica and Washington Post Staff Writer,” respectively.

There’s a graphic box further explicating this, which I’ve reproduced at right.

The link in “For more on this story, go here.” takes the reader to a detailed backgrounder titled “Review of Gitmo Detainees Has Been Slow and Complex.”

ProPublica’s About page begins:

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them. [emphasis mine]

Now, isn’t this more than a little odd?  The Washington Post is teaming up with an advocacy organization with a very particular agenda to do major news stories?  Doesn’t that blur the lines just a wee bit?

In fairness, WaPo could not have done much more in the way of full disclosure here. They make it abundantly clear that Linzer works for ProPublica and put that giant inset box in the story, at least online.   But their description of what ProPublica is — taken from the group’s own site — is rather misleading.  And those readers who view the post in its traditional paper edition (there are still some of those, right?) don’t have the ability to easily click a link to find out more.

This doesn’t feel right to me.

FILED UNDER: General, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. William d'Inger says:

    It has been my experience/opinion that the Washington Post has always been, during my lifetime anyway, mainly a propaganda machine. In this case, they are outsourcing the business just like many other companies are these days. If that is shocking, it is only because the powerful media have fallen so far so fast.

  2. Duracomm says:

    The wash post is not the only paper using stories from pro publica.

    And some of the pro publica stories have been wildly inaccurate.

    ProPublica’s dishonest defense its dishonest article

    The state of the legacy media is pathetic.

  3. Bill H says:

    Well, back in the days when Thomas Jefferson et al were writing about the importance of a free press, newspapers were all biased in a very open and unabashed manner. That was, in fact, their entire purpose for being. The dissemination of news was entirely secondary. There were many more of them, and they presented divergent views, thereby providing the “public discussion” that was the purpose of a free press.

    Newspapers that are merely publishing “a man was found dead” stories are not providing a public discussion when they limit opinion to a single page in the second section that nobody ever turns to.

    Given the fact that most cities now have a single paper, bias is probably a bad thing, but it means that the media’s role in public discussion is severly diminished.

  4. Eric Florack says:

    Dig that weed out, and I’m sure you’ll find George Soros at the root of it.

  5. […] James Joyner over OTB this morning calls our attention to the byline of the story in question, which reads: “The authors are […]

  6. floyd says:

    “We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong”

    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    As if being “strong” were somehow Prima Facia evidence of criminality, deserving of punishment.

    As generally implemented, the quoted statement is a doctrine of fools, which promotes weakness and harms the whole nation.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    Dig that weed out, and I’m sure you’ll find George Soros at the root of it.

    Yes, of course, because, after all, he is the root of all evil conspiracies in the world…why, I’ll bet he even financed the writing of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion…it’s nice that the right has their very own bogeyman just like the left did with Richard Mellon Scaife…

  8. Eric Florack says:

    like the left did with Richard Mellon Scaife…

    (Chukle)
    So, are you suggesting the bit with RMS was unfounded, then?

  9. An Interested Party says:

    I dunno…I simply find it interesting how different groups find different bogeymen…certainly you have found yours…

  10. Shawn says:

    Are you dense? The vast majority of traditional media outlets have had the same “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” mission.

  11. […] Why is ProPublica Writing Articles for the Washington Post? (outsidethebeltway.com) […]

  12. William d'Inger says:

    I simply find it interesting how different groups find different bogeymen

    Um, please tell me what part of “different” you fail to comprehend.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    Um, please tell me what part of “different” you fail to comprehend.

    Oh I comprehend it quite well, thank you…I just find it amusing that when certain people on the left had their bogeyman, they were ridiculed…now some on the right turn around and do the same thing…certainly they can be ridiculed too…

  14. yetanotherjohn says:

    James,
    If this is your first time recognizing the MSM is not only in bed with the left, but a very active and willing partner, I don’t know what to say. Like reading a North Korean ‘news report’, you just have to take what they say with a grain of salt.