The Panama Canal

Monday, October 6, 2008
So, interestingly, this image of the 16th page of the Washington Post is different than the one I receive at home. Some time in between the "Home Edition" and the "Final Edition", (which is what I receive) The front page story "There's a Gold Mine In Environmental Guilt" switched from jumping to A12 to jumping to A16, with an interesting, unintended effect. The jump, which now fills both the top and left of A16 is headed "Still a Bull Market in Climate Guilt" and that article surrounds the ad below.

In college, I avoided proofing some layout that had an ad which was a petition related to a story I was covering, and my friends and I pondered a "Panama Canal" which, for the sake of our metaphor was uncrossable like the Chinese Wall. The latter separates news and opinion, the former, news and advertising revenue. This is a good thing. It essentially means that you cannot be accused of people paying for coverage. News writers don't know who's buying what ads; and it helps keep them honest and--perhaps even more important--helps maintain the image of objectivity, which is often as important as actual objectivity.

But take a look at that ad below, and ask yourself: isn't the placement a little unfortunate? An article about carbon offsets -- which can be investments in wind energy--literally surrounding an ad for wind energy.

Like the post below, in which the Times editorial page sites Time instead of its own newspaper, this is likely an illustration of the separation, rather than a failure of that separation. But, since the article jumped elsewhere before, this might have been something layout staff wanted to catch.

Oh well.

P.S. I'm back, and have much to ponder about in the near future.

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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

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