DL: The thing with this Kaplan thing is that I actually feel like stuff like this is going to come up more often. Since the publications themselves don’t make money, they have to have other financial involvements.

I mean it’s very complicated, especially for something like this. Like, you can’t just be the shill for the money maker you own, but then how can the Post now ever say something positive about proprietary schools and be taken seriously?

Maybe something like this needs a new standard.

JP: Well, okay. But, honestly, a lot of the time I think people get too worked up over stuff like this. It’s not like the head of the Kaplan division was standing in the newsroom, dictating the editorial. I doubt the people who wrote the editorial have ever even met the Kaplan people. These are big companies.

DL: Of course. That would be foolish and a waste of everyone’s time.

JP: The connection isn’t as direct or as nefarious as many people would think.

DL: But it’s not even necessarily about real impropriety.

JP: There is the perception of impropriety. And since people tend to be suspicious about news organizations and their motives, that perception isn’t going to go away. So, I think you’re right. Maybe we need a new standard. Maybe a simple disclaimer isn’t good enough anymore.

DL: I mean, it can be. For a news story. “This is the new law.” “This is what it’s supposed to do.” “This is the reaction to it.”

JP: Right, but for something like an editorial you need a bit more.

Like, maybe online you do more linking to other things that have been written about for-profit universities. And I really do think that ombudsman thing I mentioned earlier is a good idea.

DL: I’m sure this is going to come up again with another news source and another issue.

JP: I would be surprised if it didn’t.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Justin Peters is editor-at-large of the Columbia Journalism Review.