When you come to The Post-Star‘s website — poststar.com — you will immediately see the same familiar masthead that you see at the top of the print product.
As you look down the page, you will find categories that list “Top Stories” and “The Latest,” with news stories that are updated and change throughout the day.
The vast majority of the readers who come to our website know who we are. They have read our print product and trust that what we print is accurate.
That might not be the case if you lived in a foreign country or another state and stumbled on one of our news stories.
Someone might wonder, “Who are these folks and where are they from?”
If they scrolled to the bottom of the page, they would find a copyright symbol and our Glens Falls address.
If they wanted more, they could click on a “Contact us” link where they would find the name of our publisher and the leaders in each department along with a link to their email along with the names and email addresses of staff members.
Despite all that, we’ve been wondering if we need to go further.
We wonder if it might be in our best interest to publish our history as a community newspaper that goes back over 100 years.
We wonder if it would be helpful to talk about are commitment to the community, addressing its problems and our history of award-winning journalism.
Maybe we should be doing more to show that we employ trained professional men and women who do daily journalism that can be trusted.
After publishing for more than a century, you might wonder if this was really needed.
But there are lots of people trying to pass off their news products as legitimate news websites that are not. They are preying on our gullibility.
The Free Telegraph is an instructive example.
It launched over the summer with a good old-fashioned newspaper name. It asks you to sign up with an email address and zip code.
It’s a slick looking news page that specializes in political content, much of which is complimentary toward Republican governors while framing Democrats in a negative light.
Otherwise, it looks every bit as legitimate as The Post-Star website, except that when you looked for information about where it was published, who the publisher was, or some of the people who work there, it was initially absent.
That’s a red flag.
If you can’t find out who is publishing information, you probably cannot trust that it is fair and accurate.
Lacking that information was not an oversight, either.
The Free Telegraph was registered as a website through Domains by Proxy, a company that allows the originators of a website to shield their identities. The Associated Press, the national wire service subscribed to by nearly every daily newspaper in the country, could not find any corporate, Federal Election Commission or IRS filings establishing The Free Telegraph as an independent entity.
Finally, after The Associated Press inquired about the website with the Republican Governors Association, a link was added.
If you clicked “Subscribe to FT” at the top of the page, the following information was shown in very small print:
“Paid for by Republican Governors Association, 1747 Penn Ave., NW, Suite 250, Washington, D.C. Not made with cooperation, consent or consultation, or at request or suggestion of a candidate or her agent.”
So while this was a Republican group that got caught this time, we have no doubts this could become the norm for political propaganda in any party.
It’s another warning about being prudent about the news source you use and whether it can be trusted. You need to know who the authors are.
The waters will continue to be muddied by Facebook links and Twitter posts that often are produced by entities that are not journalists, but partisan groups.
We as consumers, as citizens need to be vigilant.
Post-Star editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Robert Forcey, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representatives Dan Gealt, George Nelson and Connie Bosse.