Web editorial: believe it or not?

For many journalists, the Internet highlights a thorny issue. In print, established conventions distinguish editorial content from advertising. But online, an expansive medium where a product review is just a click away from a product purchase, the separation between editorial and advertising is not always clear. Should a book review section online include a link to Amazon.com? If Amazon.com pays referring sites a small fee as a result of sales, should that payment policy be explained to readers?

According to a report by Jupiter Communications LLC (http://www.jup.com), a New York City-based media research firm, editors who have apoplectic fits over such questions appear to have been wasting their worry. Most readers, the report says, believe that links from news sites to third-party commerce sites do not compromise editorial integrity. About 70 percent of the 2,200 people surveyed said they don’t have a problem even if news sites sell goods online. And 80 percent of respondents say they trust online news sources as much as they trust traditional news outlets, including newspapers and network television. Which may not be saying a lot.