The Globe strikes back against the CommonWealth – Media Nation
CommonWealth magazine published an article last week reporting that several scientists interviewed by freelancers working for the Boston Globe’s publicity team were not told the interviews were about branded content sponsored by tobacco giant Philip Morris. I was among those who offered a comment to Colman M. Herman of CommonWealth.
Earlier today, the Globe published a response. I post it in full, followed by a counter response from CommonWealth. First, the Globe statement:
BOSTON, April 4, 2022 — We have conducted a review of all written correspondence with physicians, scientists and their representatives who have been contacted to participate in the Thank you, scientists branded content series referenced by CommonWealth Magazine. This series, written by independent journalists and qualified as branded content, focused on recognizing the careers and contributions of scientists from all sectors and their positive impact. The series makes no mention of products.
In each case, we found that the people and/or PR reps supporting them were in fact told that their participation was for branded content funded by Philip Morris International and to celebrate the scientists.
Our journalism is funded by subscribers and, like almost all of our industry colleagues, advertisers. Branded content has become an essential and widely used product for many news outlets. Done right, it creates a better experience for advertisers and for readers and helps support our industry.
When working with an advertiser on branded content, Boston Globe Media’s advertising team maintains an editorial firewall—the newsroom and opinion teams have no involvement. We are deeply committed to honoring the integrity of our journalism and require our Studio/B team and the freelance writers we work with to be transparent throughout the process.
This includes disclosing the nature of the work as branded content to potential sources and topics. We share who the sponsoring entity is. When we publish, we separate and clearly label the final product on our print and digital platforms so readers know that the stories are not produced by Globe journalists. This is standard practice in the industry.
We are surprised by the journalistic tactics employed by CommonWealth. An individual who describes himself as a freelance writer emailed The Globe seeking comment without indicating whether he worked for a specific publication or was pursuing a personal agenda. He never mentioned the misleading claims he later raised in the story. He did not follow up with a specific response. We would expect much more from an organization that undoubtedly holds itself to basic standards of journalism.
We will continue to see and set the highest possible standards in the assembly and publication of this type of work.
CommonWealth Editor Bruce Mohl’s retort can be found on the publication’s website, so I’ll just link to it rather than reprint the whole thing. I think perhaps the most substantial criticism made in the Globe statement is that Herman’s attempts to get comment from the Globe were insufficient. Here is what Mohl says about it:
He [Herman] contacted many officials at World early in his reporting, when it was unclear who he would submit the story to and none of them ever heard back. He hasn’t followed up more recently when the subject of the piece has become clearer.
Mohl also says the Globe shared emails and texts with CommonWealth showing scientists were aware of Philip Morris’ involvement. He writes that CommonWealth “contacted all of the scientists cited in his article to ask about the Globe’s documentation, but had not yet heard from any of them.