April 24, 2004

Caveat Lector

Or, "reader beware." (I had to look it up). If you read the Op/Ed pages of your local paper, you may occasionally see guest editorials about a hot-button issue signed by someone who has impeccable academic credentials. Trouble is, those columns are often written by PR firms and sent to the professor for transmittal on to the paper. This practice seems a tad unethical to me, and to a fair number of other folks in the academic world as well. (Here's the column that appeared in the WaPo about this practice; it's a shorter version of the one previously referenced).

Landsberger says he doesn't know who actually wrote his column. He received it, via e-mail, from an employee at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. (Landsberger emphasized that he believed the employee, whom he wouldn't name, sent him the column as a private citizen, rather than on behalf of the national lab.) Nor was this the first time; when it comes to deceiving newspaper readers on behalf of a stealth nuclear lobbying campaign, Landsberger is an acknowledged recidivist. "I've been doing this four or five years," he says. "They [op-ed columns] come from Oak Ridge maybe two or three times a year, particularly when there's a hot-button issue."
Makes you think; if the nuclear power boys are doing this, who else is? From the research that's been done so far, it appears that this practice has been going on since 1977.

I'm gonna look a little more closely at the guest authors in my local papers from now on.

Found via the blogger formerly known as Calpundit.

Posted by Linkmeister at April 24, 2004 04:23 PM

holy cow! I was referring to students, but this is MUCH worse.

Posted by: shelley at April 26, 2004 03:50 AM

Yeah, and this may be just one industry sample, as I suggested.

Posted by: Linkmeister at April 26, 2004 12:55 PM