The incredibly popular NewsDay.com was at a PageRank of five recently, and Google specifically confirmed that NewsDay received this PageRank penalty due to "selling links that pass PageRank." But when I look at the Google Toolbar now at www.newsday.com, it shows a PageRank of 8, not a PageRank of 5.
On June 8th, the webmaster reported the PageRank penalty in a thread at Google Groups, on June 9th in the afternoon, a Googler spotted the thread and replied:
Thanks for your post. I'm glad you're posting here in the Webmaster Help Group, because the discussions here help educate webmasters around the globe. I just checked over newsday.com and compared it to the most recent version of newsday.com that was indexed by Archive.org: http://web.archive.org/web/20070829225145/http://www.newsday.com/
Scrolling near the bottom of what your site used to look like, I see the following "Featured Links": Mesothelioma Lawyer Lung Cancer Personal Injury Law Firm Buy Mets Tickets Buy Yankees Tickets Wicked Tickets Hamptons Travel
Please remember that participating in link schemes intended to manipulate search engine rankings, including buying or selling links that pass PageRank, is a violation of our Webmaster Guidelines, and may impact your site's standing in Google: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66356
If you believe your site was at one point in violation of the Webmaster Guidelines, and you have since made changes to your site so that it fits within the guidelines, you can request reconsideration of your site by following the steps here: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35843
But now, the site is back at a PageRank of 8.
In any event, I do not believe that Google typically has called out major sites for this in the past. I know this is known as a valid reason for Google to downgrade a site's PageRank (just look at ours). But it is always interesting to see the discussion around a major news site, like NewsDay.com.
Forum discussion at Google Groups.