He learned that at that time “no corporate policy has been written to protect Lewin from interference by its parent companies.” In other words, there was no formal firewall. He reported that one senior Lewin official admitted that “autonomy is too strong a word” to describe the firm’s arrangement, but she denied that there had been editorial interference. Furlow pressed Lisa Chimento, a Lewin senior vice president, about disclosing the United connection. “It didn’t occur to us that we might have to address this,” she said. “In hindsight, maybe we should have.”

This time around, Lewin didn’t make that mistake. Next time around, media outlets shouldn’t either.

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Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.