A short time ago, I wrote with concern about the blurred boundaries between news and opinion in the lead stories of major newspapers. I did not think I would have to worry about blurred boundaries between front page stories and advertising, but this front page story in the New York Times has me wondering.
The story is about Bernard Madoff and statements he has made from his jail cell. It is strange enough that the Times would give upper right hand front page placement to comments made by Mr. Madoff. As the story notes after the page turn: "Mr. Madoff’s claims must be weighed against his tenuous credibility."
But beyond that judgment about newsworthiness, note this paragraph on the front page:
Both the interview and the e-mail correspondence were conducted as part of this reporter’s research for a coming book on the Madoff scandal, “The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust,” for publication this spring by Times Books, a division of Henry Holt & Company.
Did we just see a commercial posing as part of a news story? First, who cares if the interview was conducted as part of research for a book? The interview rises or falls on its own. Second, why is the full name of the book given, along with the publisher's name?
If this was meant to be some kind of disclosure, it could have been written to make that clear. As it now stands, the only surprise is that the on-line version of the article did not have an embedded link to Amazon.