A reader emailed me, confused at a page he found on KansasCity.com. It's a short list of facts about Amtrak, with a credit line from an organization called Face the Facts USA.
"Is this an editorial?" wrote my emailer. "If so, it is not labeled as such, that I see. Is this an advertisement? If so, it is not labeled as such, that I see. It is political propaganda, at the least, and is either an advertisement, or something else."
Take a look at the item and see if you agree with him. I'm not sure I would agree it's propaganda, though if you're a supporter of Amtrak you might not like to read two points in particular: "Yet Amtrak consistently operates in the red, losing about $1 billion each year. Studies point to inefficiencies and mismanagement, along with overhead, repair and maintenance costs as reasons why."
The tagline says Face the Facts USA "delivers provocative facts about big issues to help Americans debunk myths, hold better conversations, get involved, and make choices as smarter citizens."
Its website offers more explanation, including that it's a nonpartisan project from the Center for Innovative Media at George Washington University. A check of the Nexis news database shows its information started cropping up in news stories in late July of this year.
A look at the project's Twitter feed is also instructive. The facts anyone chooses to present will always be seen as evidence of a point of view. That's sure to be subjective.
As for why it's on KansasCity.com, pieces from the project move on the national news wires regularly, and thousands of those stories rotate through various landing pages on KansasCity.com constantly.
Since this one is credited clearly, I don't think its provenance is confusing -- but its purpose? It struck me as unusual when I first saw it, too. It would make more sense if presented as a fact box with a related story, which is something I could easily imagine The Star doing.