WaPo on Palin op-ed: We'll publish garbage if you'll click on it

Yesterday, The Washington Post published a falsehood-laden op-ed on climate change from noted climatologist...Alaska Governor...uh, social network celebrity Sarah Palin. In an interview with Editor and Publisher's Joe Strupp, op-ed editor Autumn Brewington explained how Palin's piece came to appear in the paper, and defended the decision to run it:

She said the newspaper received an e-mail from Palin Tuesday asking to write about the issue and it decided it should run Wednesday, before President Barack Obama was to head to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

“If we were going to use it, we had to use it immediately,” Brewington said. “It was a quicker turnaround than is often the case. But we made the decision based on news.”


Brewington did not regret giving Palin space, noting, “She is someone who stirs discussion and we are in the business of putting out opinion. She reached out to us.”

A few things come to mind in response to this. Considering Palin's history of falsehoods, rushing her piece through the editorial process was probably not the best idea. As Media Matters research director Jeremy Schulman pointed out on Wednesday, not only were Palin's falsehoods contradicted by scientists and temperature data, but also by the Washington Post's own reporting.

Also, the idea that Palin's thoughts are worth publishing for no other reason than she “stirs discussion” suggests that The Washington Post is more interested in getting attention than informing its readers. Does Palin have an open invitation to write ill-informed pieces on newsworthy issues just because she “stirs discussion?” How about a piece about Barack Obama's birth certificate? Actually, I don't think I want to know the answer to that.

Yesterday, under the headline “Hard Questions,” Josh Marshall framed the recent “Climategate” kerfuffle perfectly:

Who to believe on climate change mystery: scientists or conservative pundits? Any thoughts?

WaPo answers: That depends - how many clickthroughs will these “scientists” get us?