Conflict of Interest at Politico’s Massachusetts Playbook?

Well the hardworking staff was just sitting here in the Global Worldwide Headquarters minding our own business, when this popped up on the Twitters.


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Of course we immediately asked Dan Currie if he has any connection to the charter school rumpus, and here’s how that exchange worked out:


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Meanwhile, we subscribe to Massachusetts Playbook, as any right-thinking person would, so we hied ourselves to today’s edition where we found this:

** A message from Great Schools Massachusetts: An outdated, arbitrary cap on public charter school seats is stranding 37,000 kids on charter school waiting lists. It’s time to make public charter schools available to every family that wants them. Learn more: **

Then this:

AFTER TAKING A SELFIE, STAKING OUT A SIMPLE STANCE — “Baker on charters: ‘I just want the cap lifted,’” by Katie Lannan, State House News Service: “‘We’re here today to talk specifically about a ballot proposal to lift the charter school cap,’ Baker said to applause. ‘My view on this is really simple: I don’t really care how the cap gets lifted, I just wanted the cap lifted.’”

So, that’s sort of not ignoring it, right? It’s actually pushing an advertiser’s message into the editorial content. Isn’t that the conflict of interest?

(To be fair graf goes here)


To be fair, the headscratching staff is kinda confused here about who’s doing/saying what at this point. Hey, Dan Currie and Lauren Dezenski – help us out, wouldja?

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6 Responses to Conflict of Interest at Politico’s Massachusetts Playbook?

  1. Bob Gardner says:

    Not more confused than I am. It sounds like someone is being accused of ignoring a pro-charter school rally because they are being influenced by the pro-charter school lobby. Sounds like a plan put together by the Piranha Brothers in the Monty Python skit.
    But as long as the Governor doesn’t care how the cap is lifted, how about –instead of the charter school money coming out of the public education budget, how about giving the parents a choice of taking the money out of any public budget they want? Spread the misery around.

  2. Dan Currie says:

    Since you asked for an explanation, here goes: I subscribe to the Playbook and recommend it highly. But I do not support charter schools because I believe they undermine support for “regular” public schools in many ways. So it offends me that the Playbook I have received via email each weekday morning recently has each contained three pitches from Great Schools Massachusetts, the charter school lobby that it apparently the online publication’s primary sponsor.

    To my eye, the design of the “ads” that infiltrate the Playbook emails are nearly indistinguishable from the layout of news content. So I tweeted this simple statement of fact Monday morning: “”POLITICO Massachusetts Playbook” sponsored by state charter school lobby.” Moments later I noticed that the Playbook link to the charter lobby website was not working. So I brought that to Politico’s attention in another tweet. A short time later I received a message from @LaurenDezenski in which she explained that, actually, a mistake had been made. The Great Schools Massachusetts Playbook ads were not supposed to start running until the next day (Tuesday). Consequently, the Monday ads with the unready links were taken down. Lauren also explained that there is a strong firewall between business and editorial in the Playbook and that she, as Politico’s reporter, has nothing to do with any of the advertisements. And I respect that that is undoubtedly true as far as she is intends to be concerned.

    Of course now I assume we know why the Monday ads were premature. The next day, Tuesday, was, in effect, Charter School Lobby Day on Beacon Hill, starring the Governor and coinciding with advocacy and other publicity elsewhere — most especially in the new POLITICO Playbook Massachusetts — obviously timed and intended to maximize a public relations impact to benefit the charter school movement.

    I must confess that on the following day (today, Wednesday) I was mistaken when I tweeted that the Playbook that day “ignored” the rally at the State House. I am sorry to have created more confusion as a result. In fact, Lauren did report supportive statements from charter schools’ biggest gun, the governor, though without identifying the rally context, and without providing any balance involving the other side of the charter school story as far as I know. The Wednesday report did include a link to a State House News Service story which may or may not have offered that balance, but news service’s stories are readable only by subscription (which is not inexpensive), so I don’t know.

    In any case, the whole arrangement seems fraught with ethical danger for the future since charter schools are such a hot-button issue, and we’ll need to depend on good reporters like Lauren to help us hopefully resolve it in a fair way someday — that is to say, without Lauren’s employers couching her dispatches in biased surroundings in the meantime.

    -Dan Currie, Boston

  3. Carol O'Reilly says:

    Global HQ? Aren’t we grand?

  4. Pingback: Conflict of Interest at Politico Massachusetts Playbook (II) | Campaign Outsider

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