Conflict of Interest at Politico Massachusetts Playbook (II)

Well the hardworking staff wandered into a bit of a quagmire yesterday when we looked at the confluence of a Massachusetts Playbook ad and some Massachusetts Playbook editorial content that both seemed to have the same objective: to boost the expansion of charter schools in the Bay State.

Dan Currie had sent out this tweet


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after Massachusetts Playbook’s Lauren Dezenski had posted 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** A message from Great Schools Massachusetts: An outdated, arbitrary cap on public charter school seats is stranding 37,000 kids on charter school waiting lists.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.’”

The headscratching staff’s contribution to the rumpus:

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?

Totally confused, we then appealed to Dan Currie and Lauren Dezenski to enlighten us.

Mr. Currie was the first to get back to us, with a long comment that you are certainly welcome to read in its entirety.

The gist, for our current purposes:

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.

That might be true “as far as [Ms. Dezenski] intends to be concerned,” but Politico has a history of tossing advertising and editorial content into a State of the Cuisinart Marketing blender.

(See this Washington Post Eric Wemple takedown of Politico’s Rain Man Mike Allen two years ago.)

As for a response from Ms. Dezenski, we didn’t get one. Nor did she address the issue in today’s installment of Massachusetts Playbook.

But Dan Currie weighed back in this morning.


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3 Responses to Conflict of Interest at Politico Massachusetts Playbook (II)

  1. Dan Currie says:

    After apologizing for creating some initial confusion, perhaps I should have limited my respond yesterday to the two questions from Campaign Outsider’s headscratching staff to: Yes and yes.

    • Campaign Outsider says:

      Sorry, Dan – but it’s not like I said anything negative about you. Anyway, you had the only version of Lauren Dezenski’s side, so I appreciate your sending it to me.

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