The Washington Post's Problematic New Partnership with the Fiscal Times

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On New Year's Eve, The Washington Post published an article by The Fiscal Times on Page A10 -- ostensibly its "News" section -- that aggressively promoted the creation of a task force to reduce the deficit through cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In a note at the end of the article, the Post described The Fiscal Times as "an independent digital news publication reporting on fiscal, budgetary, health-care and international economics issues." The Post did not note that the purportedly "independent" Fiscal Times is funded by conservative billionaire Peter G. Peterson, whose organizations have for years been advocating deficit reduction through cuts to important programs and have advocated for the creation of such a task force.

This article was intended to be the first of many in a new partnership between the Post and The Fiscal Times.

Compounding the problem of lack of disclosure in the article, The Fiscal Times quoted a statement of support for the task force from Concord Coalition executive director Robert Bixby. Peterson is the founder and president of the Concord Coalition, a connection that was omitted from the article. Further, the article, headlined "Support grows for tackling nation's debt," completely ignored the more than 40 national progressive organizations that sent a letter to President Obama and members of the House and Senate expressing "strong opposition" to such a task force.

Andy Alexander, The Washington Post's ombudsman, responded to the growing controversy this past weekend, noting that the article had "serious deficiencies" in regards to lack of disclosure and a lack of "sufficient balance." As Dean Baker noted at The American Prospect, both of these mistakes conveniently favor Peterson's political agenda. While Alexander did acknowledge the article's shortcomings, he defended the Post's decision to run it and the planned ongoing partnership between Fiscal Times and the Post due to the fact that Post editors have control over the content. Unfortunately, as evidenced by this debacle, the Post's editors aren't up to the task of properly vetting Fiscal Times articles.

Due to Peterson's well-documented history of advocacy on this issue, the Post owes it to its readers to sever this dubious relationship immediately.

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