On November 25, the Guardian published a glowing story regarding Qatar’s soon-to-be successful World Cup bid. Louise Taylor, the paper’s “northest football correspondent,” traveled to the desert emirate for the article. Her story drew ire from the readers because she and her editors failed to disclose that the Qatari government paid for the trip.
As part of the coverage the sports desk commissioned the journalist to write about her impressions of Qatar; the piece strongly supported the Qatari bid. The journalist, who is not unfamiliar with the Middle East, stands by every word she wrote, and I have no doubt that the opinions she expressed were honestly held. But our failure to footnote the fact that the trip was funded by the Qatari 2022 World Cup bid committee, or write it into the story, gave readers cause for doubt. There were at least 30 strongly negative comments to that effect posted below the article, and it took too long for us to go into the thread to make matters clear.
Elliott goes on to claim that the entire Guardian staff has slipped up when disclosing important facts, writing, “One of the reasons that trip was not footnoted is because the rule has slipped more generally across the Guardian.”
His final point is the most damning, however; “Editors should enforce this rule without exception, because what really undermines the journalism is when it isn’t enforced.”