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A bookmarklet that helps track the consequences of media consolidation.
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##The Bezos-Post Conflict-of-Interest Crayon

The Conflict-of-Interest Crayon is a bookmarklet that highlights subjects, companies and people which now, all of a sudden, pose an actual or potential conflict of interest for employees at the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post.

For instance, here's what the Conflict-of-Interest Crayon crayon found in a Post [story](( about the lobbying activities of Bezos's main company, Amazon:

WaPo screenshot

##How to install the Crayon

To install the bookmarklet, follow the instructions on this page.

After you've added the bookmarklet to your browser, head on over to

Now click on the bookmarklet while viewing any Post article or section front, including the home page.

After a brief delay for processing, the Bezos-Post Conflict-of-Interest Crayon should highlight your electronic copy of the Post with yellow streaks of skepticism.

Sometimes a large question mark will appear next to your cursor when you hover over a highlight.

If that happens, it means you can click on the highlighted word for some additional explanation. As below:

WaPo screenshot

The bookmarklet will highlight words on any page, even those outside the domain, so you can use it to analyze Post-managed Twitter pages or Post stories in your RSS reader (or auctions on for that matter).

###What gets highlighted?

The words and phrases identified as potential conflicts of interest are listed in a public wiki, here.

I came up with the initial list of approximately 440 keywords based on a couple of hours worth of research on Wikipedia, news websites, NASDAQ, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Sunlight Foundation's wonderful Influence Explorer, which aggregates public records on campaign finance, lobbying, federal regulation and more.

So far the list contains the following:

* people closely related, in one way or another, to Bezos;

  • companies with which Amazon or another Bezos company does business;
  • companies which compete with Amazon or another Bezos company;
  • industries, sectors and product categories which make Amazon and Bezos a significant amount of money;
  • companies and people which have sued or are being sued by Amazon or Bezos;
  • politicians and causes supported or opposed, financially or otherwise, by Bezos or Amazon;
  • common-sense extrapolations drawn from the above.

The list is by no means complete. It contains a number of redundancies and likely also some inaccuracies. It could be much, much better.

A few sources are listed in the wiki; it would be nice if people wanted to help flesh that out a bit.

###How to contribute

Please suggest additional conflicts in the wiki or, if you don't have a GitHub account, by email, here.

If I like a suggestion, I'll add it to the script at this repo, which will automatically update the bookmarklet for all users.

Likewise, if someone makes a convincing argument that something I've included does not pose an actual or potential conflict of interest for Post reporters and editors, I'll remove it from the list.

###What does it all mean?

The Bezos-Post Conflict-of-Interest Crayon is not a lie detector. Just because it highlights something in a story on the Post website doesn't mean the story is false, inaccurate, skewed or misleading.

It does indicate that the Post's new owner, Jeff Bezos, has an outside stake in something that was mentioned in the story. Post readers deserve to know that sort of information so they can judge the organization's news coverage, editorials and op-ed columns with all of the relevant context.

The Post's own Code of Business conduct, last revised in 2003, stresses the importance of disclosure:

Although the mere existence of an actual or potential conflict of interest does not imply wrongdoing on anyone's part, eliminating or otherwise appropriately managing such conflicts is essential to maintaining the Company's reputation…

###Disclosure Required

When in Doubt, Ask!

Employees must promptly and fully disclose to their managers any circumstances they become aware of that could possibly be viewed as creating a conflict of interest, even if the individual employee does not believe that his/her objectivity is being compromised in any way by those circumstances.

Bezos's business holdings are far, far greater than those of the newspaper's previous owners, as are his lobbying efforts. The Post's coverage demands a new degree of scrunity, especially when it covers stories which could affect the fortunes of its new owner.

I explained more about my rationale for creating the Conflict-of-Interest Crayon on my website, here.

###Crayon colors

Sorry, The Bezos-Post Conflict-of-Interest Crayon is available in yellow only.

###Technical details The Bezos-Post Conflict-of-Interest Crayon is a javascript and bash tool closely based on Jargone by Roo Reynolds, who deserves credit for the code. Fork away, that's what I did.

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