For example, the March 12 op-ed included a passage declaring that “we’re proud of the progress our troops have made in dismantling al-Qaida, breaking the Taliban’s momentum and training Afghan forces … as recent events underscore, this remains a difficult mission.”
If a reader clicked the link at “difficult mission,” they were shown a March 11 Washington Post article, headlined “Amid anger over Afghan killings, U.S. faces growing public weariness about war.”
That article began, “the massacre of at least 16 Afghan civilians, apparently by an American soldier, forced the Obama administration Sunday to confront yet another nightmare from the war zone and fresh evidence that patience back home is increasingly wearing thin.”
The “editors here picked them, and I don’t believe we have received any feedback about it,” Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Washington Post, told The Daily Caller.
The propriety of the novel practice “turns on whether the author of [an] op-ed has approved the links ahead of time,” said Tom Rosenstiel, founder of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
“If the author has agreed to the links ahead of time, and if the readers know the links are ones the authors are fine with, then there is no issue,” he said.
However, “if that hasn’t occurred, it probably is wise for [editors] to make it clear these links were added without the authors’ permission,” he said.
“No-one has come to me with this issue before,” Rosenstiel told TheDC.
The online op-ed also includes several innocuous links that send readers to government-backed organizations that were cited in the article. Those organizations included a global fund to counter disease and an organization that promotes “open government,” or the release of information about government activities.