Sharp-eyed observers may have noticed an interesting juxtaposition on the Boston Globe's op-ed page today. There right next to a column by Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation president Michael Widmer arguing against the payroll tax for employers who don't provide health insurance is an ad by Massachusetts Businesses for Real Healthcare Reform arguing against that payroll tax.

Needless to say, the idea of the message in an op-ed being reinforced by the same paid message alongside it is embarassing and awkward -- and sure to spawn conspiracy theories. But, says Globe publisher Richard Gilman, it's sheer unlucky coincidence.

"There's always the possibility that coincidences occur and there's journalistic content on the op-ed page and an ad that are on the same topic," he says. "I've always believed that the chances of it occurring are slim and none. As it turns out, none is not the answer."

Asked if the Globe would change policy to avoid such an occurrence in the future, Gilman responded that the journalists who edit and work on the opinon pages "explicitly don't want to know the content of ads." They may want to now.



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