In an era of fake news, COURIER transparency is critical
by Peter Weinberger | email@example.com
Transparency is a term that is tossed about so often it can have different meanings depending on who you talk to. For the nonprofit COURIER, it pretty much means everything is an open book. But transparency also means making it clear to readers whose voice is behind an opinion or political statement.
In last Friday’s print edition (June 27), we inserted a flyer paid for by a Claremont individual spreading the word in opposition to the building of Larkin Place. The advertiser wanted to encourage other like-minded citizens to attend Tuesday’s city council meeting to show objection to the project.
Like letters to the editor and viewpoint articles, these opinions are not the views of the COURIER. We merely disperse these expressed perspectives to the public. That’s why it’s so important to identify the authors, or with an advertisement, to indicate who paid for it.
Regarding Larkin Place, the COURIER has made an effort not to take sides, but to report facts and perspectives from both sides. We also accept advertising, judged on a case-by-case basis, promoting a particular point of view. But any opinion needs attribution, so that it’s clear who is saying what.
Although it was clear that the Larkin Place flyer was from the group Safe and Transparent Claremont, we did not require a specific disclaimer stating who paid for the insertion of the flyer. In this case, that was Claremont resident, Linda Mawby, whom anyone can reach through a contact us form on the website.
While no laws were broken, since there are no requirements for attribution or disclaimers in advertising for a city council vote on a development (as there would be for political committees in election advertising), the COURIER believes the public deserves to know the sources of all our content. We rarely use anonymous sources for example, unless we believe the author would suffer personal harm.
The COURIER encourages people to speak out about issues involving our community, and Mawby simply exercised her rights. But like other political advertising, even though the flyer was placed by an individual, the COURIER should have required the standard “Paid for by…” at the bottom of the flyer or ad, making it clear who was responsible for its content. We did not do so, and for that, the COURIER apologizes. We will do better making sure disclaimers are a part of our political advertising. It’s simply the right thing to do.
For more information on political disclaimers, go to the Federal Election Commissions website at: fec.gov/help-candidates-and-committees/advertising-and-disclaimers/.
If you have any questions about our advertising policies, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.