NYT public editor examines “You’re the Boss” blogger ethics
Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of the New York Times, looked into allegations by a public relations professional that a blogger for the paper’s “You’re the Boss” blog was asking to be reimbursed for coverage of companies.
She interviewed the paper’s small business editor, Loren Feldman.
Sullivan writes, “Mr. Feldman, who came to The Times from Inc. magazine and has run the blog for four years, understands the difficulties of asking business people who are not professional journalists to be his writing staff.
“‘The challenges are real, they’re significant and I lose sleep over them,’ he told me. But he believes that the blog’s content offers something to small business owners that they can’t get elsewhere: the expertise of more experienced small businesspeople, and the willingness to join discussions and share their stories. The blog’s 232,000 Twitter followers (@NYTsmallbiz) suggest that many find it valuable. Mr. Feldman told me that he makes it clear to his writers that they must avoid conflicts of interest.
“The blog ‘sometimes takes us into gray areas,’ he said, ‘but this wasn’t one of them.’
“In the end, I don’t believe that Mr. Oxford demanded payment for a write-up in the Times blog. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary.
“In the very e-mails quoted in Gawker, Mr. Oxford wrote: ‘I would like to be very clear that this trip is for my own understanding and I am not representing NYT this time.’ That’s clear enough. But then, muddying the waters, he added, ‘If I see a worthy story, I will engage in that capacity.’
“Given Mr. Zitron’s behavior and Mr. Oxford’s lack of clarity, the situation was troubled from the start. Let’s err on the side of mercy and call it a misunderstanding.”
Read more here.