Chinese and Russian propaganda supplements are regularly included in The Washington Post, but the widely read newspaper won’t say how much money it gets on the deals.
China Watch – a China Daily publication – and Russia Beyond The Headlines – a Rossiyskaya Gazeta publication – have both appeared in the Post for years as paid advertising supplements. Both foreign periodicals are owned and operated by their respective governments.
“These paid supplements have run in the paper semi-regularly for many years, and have always been clearly labeled as advertising,” Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“We give advertisers wide latitude to have their say — generally if the ads are not illegal or advocating illegal actions we try not to place limits on speech or content. We have accepted the China Daily and Russia Beyond the Headlines ads for years under these standards,” Coratti said.
The Post also hosts a website for China Watch. Coratti refused to say how much the Post was paid for either publication. “We don’t disclose that type of information for any advertising,” she said.
The Russia Beyond The Headlines material has appeared in other major news papers, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
“Most, including The Washington Post, have very clear guidelines for advertising and how advertising is distinct from the main product,” The New Ethics of Journalism Editor Kelly McBride told TheDCNF. “Most consumers are not fooled by the printed product.”
McBride said she had not seen the online versions of the printed material published by the Post.
“China Watch Daily is slugged at the top of every page as ‘An Advertising Supplement to The Washington Post,’ and the first page of each advertisement states ‘This supplement, prepared by China Daily, People’s Republic of China, did not involve the news or editorial departments of The Washington Post,’” Coratti said as an example. “On top of all that, the layout and format of the supplements differs from our editorial content in a number of ways, including headline style, body font and column width.”
Previous news articles reported that the Post didn’t clearly mark that the supplements were separate from the newspaper, particularly online.
The Chinese government is “using the logo of The Washington Post to create the impression this is like any other section of The Washington Post,” Center for Investigative Journalism Accuracy In Media Director Cliff Kincaid told Life Site News in 2012. “If you didn’t know where this comes from, it looks like a regular newspaper.”
China Watch online has “few visual clues that the stories aren’t written or edited by the Post,” Nieman Lab reported in 2010. “The structure is the same as other Post sections.”
The Atlantic also pointed out in 2011 the ambiguity of China Watch’s website in an article titled “Official Chinese Propaganda: Now Online from the WaPo!” Reporter James Fallows did, however, note that the paper insert is “clearly labeled” and is necessary to “stay in business.”
Also, “small font” is used to note that Russia Beyond The Headlines is separate from the Post, the Washington Free Beacon reported in 2014.
Previous news articles also claimed that neither China Watch nor Russia Beyond The Headlines clearly described their relationships with their governments.
“There are issues of transparency associated with who publishes China Watch,” University of North Carolina journalism professor Lois Boynton told the Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo in 2012. “The ‘about’ blurb doesn’t provide that detail. Although many people may know that China mainstream media is government-controlled, it may not be clear for all readers.”
Meanwhile, Russia Today, another Russian-operated news organization, claimed the Post was motivated by coverage, rather than money.
“The Washington Post has sought to meet increasing demand for Russian news in the United States of America by publishing a six page news supplement devoted to the country,” wrote Russia Today, another government-owned publication, in 2006. “Even though the Washington Post didn’t create the spreadthey will ensure it corresponds with the paper’s editorial guidelines.”