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Note to readers: Paid content

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form for the school years July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form for the school years July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. AP file

As a reader, you have the right to expect that we produce our journalism impartially and free of influence from advertisers or anyone else. Every day, journalists at the Centre Daily Times do exactly that.

I am writing to tell you of a case in which we let you down.

The Chronicle for Higher Education reported earlier this year that “Drew Cloud,” a widely quoted “expert” on student loans, was in fact a fictitious character created by the owners of The Student Loan Report and, a student-loan shopping site.

That report led us to investigate whether any of the 30 daily publications owned by McClatchy quoted “Drew Cloud” in our own stories. What we found: In late 2016 and early 2017, the Centre Daily Times published a series of articles purportedly authored by various Student Loan Report writers. LendEDU has now informed us that all but one of these writers were also fictitious characters. Further, we learned that these articles were published in connection with an advertising arrangement between the Centre Daily Times and LendEDU. In addition, we learned that McClatchy’s Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia, had also published Student Loan Report articles in connection with a similar advertising agreement.

While the Centre Daily Times was not aware that the authors of these articles were fictitious characters, the articles should not have been published without a disclaimer stating that they were paid content provided in connection with an advertising arrangement. That’s what our ethical standards require, and we’re profoundly sorry that we failed to meet them here.

Where each of those articles appeared on the Centre Daily Times’s site, we have now replaced the text with an editor’s note explaining the situation. In the interest of transparency, we have collected all of the articles in one file so that you can see them for yourself.

The executive editor of the Centre Daily Times at the time these articles appeared is no longer with the company. But we have reiterated to every current McClatchy editor and publisher the importance of preserving the integrity of our journalism -- which, among other things, requires us to prominently and clearly identify paid content as such wherever it exists.

We work hard to earn the trust of readers in State College and in all of the communities McClatchy serves. We sincerely regret that we failed to meet our own standards here. You deserve better, and we’re committed to ensuring that this never happens again.

If you have questions or concerns about this situation or anything else, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly at the email address below. In the meantime, thank you for reading, and thank you for your support.

Tim Grieve

Vice President of News