An Ethical Debate for the New York Times 2

Every once in a while the New York Times has to roll its eyes, take a deep breath and figure out what to do next. Why, you ask? Because of technology columnist David Pogue.

As one of the most well known and influential technology columnists in the world, Pogue’s name is always appearing in the press. However, sometimes the news isn’t always good. This week there’s been a lot of discussion around a $159 seminar that Ragan Communications is selling, where people can learn what types of pitches Pogue likes and dislikes.

While other reporters participate in paid information sessions like this (HARO puts on these seminars once in a while), New York Times employees are not allowed to participate because it’s a violation of their policy:

It is an inherent conflict for a journalist to perform public relations work, paid or unpaid. Staff members may not counsel individuals or organizations on how to deal successfully with the news media.

It’s unknown if Pogue or Ragan Communications was the driving force behind this paid seminar, but in either case it’s a very tricky issue.

This is hardly the first time Pogue’s activities has been touchy subject for the New York Times. He also had a romantic relationship with a PR executive, which to his credit, he disclosed to his editor.  However, it still caused a stir publicly, as Pogue regularly covered clients at her PR agency.

Pogue also accepted a paid speaking gig from CEA, another clear violation of the New York Times policies. And to top it off, The New York Times opinion page published a feature story in September 2009 about Pogue’s conflict of interest when it comes to Apple:

Two Thursdays ago, two of Pogue’s interests seemed to collide. In his Times column, he gave a glowing review to Snow Leopard, Apple’s new operating system for Macs. At the same time, he was writing a “Missing Manual” on Snow Leopard — two, actually — already available for pre-order on Amazon. If you are now running Leopard on your Mac, Pogue wrote in the review, paying the $30 to replace it with Snow Leopard “is a no-brainer.”

This entire subject is difficult for the New York Times, since the line between journalists, reporters and influences is becoming quite thin. It is hard to say who is gaining more from this relationship – the New York Times or Pogue. While the New York Times is one of the top news outlets in the world, Pogue has turned himself into a his own brand, especially through the use of social media. So while the New York Times is currently receiving criticism for not treating all freelancers and columnists the same, sometimes there is no right answer.

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