A free ad for space tourism

2012-02-13_Follies2012-big

I came across a story today about Virgin Galactic’s plans for a commercial spaceport in New Mexico.

“Travel to the stratosphere, and possibly beyond, is closer than you think in an otherwise unremarkable spot outside Las Cruces, New Mexico. That’s where Spaceport America is digging in – and building out – in an all in effort to launch commercial flights into space,” writes Lark Gould, who identifies herself as a journalist.

I find this story, like many others on space tourism, pretty breathless. I’ve expressed my doubts about so-called “commercial space” proposals before.

The Washington Times story is posted on its “Communities’ page, which the paper describes as “an Uncommon Place where some of to

day’s liveliest voices have joined together to share their common interests…. The Washington Times Communities are filled with content from independent writers offering a fresh perspective on the very things you care about.”

The paper notes that Communities contributors “are responsible for their content, which is not edited by The Washington Times.”

I’m not a fan of the Washington Times, and I don’t know Lark Gould.

I did a bit of checking around and found that Lark Gould writes for Travel-Intel, a travel marketing arm of tours.com, which calls itself  “the official directory of tours & vacations worldwide.”

You can find out more about what Gould does for Travel Intel at Travel-Intel Marketing.

Gould’s story in today’s Washington Times is remarkably similar to a story and a press release she wrote for Travel-Intel in December. In her Washington Times story, Gould cites “recent articles in Travel-Intel” as a source of information on the Las Cruces plan. She does not mention that she wrote those “recent articles,” though if you go to those reports you’ll see that Gould’s byline is on them. You can read Gould’s December 1, 2012, “story” for Travel-Intel on the “Spaceport America” plan  here, and you can read the December 5, 2012, press release she wrote for Travel-Intel on the same subject here..

IMHO, this is not “journalism,” and Gould is not “independent.”

What do you think?

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