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June 17, 2014 at 6:18 AM

Jorge Carrasco, Huffington Post and the financial interests of guest writers

On Monday, The Huffington Post removed an article written as part of a paid campaign to scrub Seattle City Light Chief Executive Jorge Carrasco’s online image, according to a Politics Northwest blog post. Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner wrote about the effort, which City Light paid for, in a Sunday news story.

The Seattle Times opinion section publishes guest columns, aka op-eds, that are written by community members. You’ll spot them by the “Special to the Times” under their bylines.

Screenshot from a guest column in The Seattle Times.

Screenshot from a guest column in The Seattle Times. Community members are identified as “Special to the Times” under their bylines.

These opinion columns help build a forum for respectful, civil debate about the local issues of the day. (For more about submitting op-eds, check out The Seattle Times’ op-ed guidelines.)

How does the opinion section handle financial interests? Before The Seattle Times publishes a guest opinion column, our editors explicitly ask writers through a written form whether they have a financial interest in the outcome of their arguments. If a writer does have a financial interest, he or she is expected to disclose it and our editors have a discussion with the writer. If we decide to move forward with publication, we figure out a way to be transparent with readers about the financial interest.

Our section does publish guest columns by writers who have a financial interest in the outcome of an issue when it’s disclosed to readers. For instance, we ran many guest columns by business owners who had a financial interest in seeing the $15 minimum-wage proposal fail, and the biographies at the end of the columns clearly stated that they operate local businesses.

While we have many safeguards in place and we have caught undisclosed interests in the past, no system is 100 percent. So if you ever spot any writers who may have undisclosed financial interests, please email me at schan@seattletimes.com or call me at 206-464-2958.

Comments | Topics: city of seattle, journalism, seattle city light

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