OLD Media Moves

NYT tech columnist's many conflicts

September 6, 2009

Clark Hoyt, the public editor of the New York Times, writes Sunday about how the paper is handling the conflicts of interest around tech columnist David Pogue.

Hoyt writes, “No Times journalist is in quite the same position as Pogue — reviewing products and simultaneously writing guides to them. He said he makes more money from the books than from The Times.

“Pogue and his editors said they talk frequently about how to deal with his varied interests, and the editors praised him as a straight shooter who has developed a large following precisely because of his honest assessments of hardware and software. Pogue said the conflict in his case was ‘kind of an imaginative cause and effect. I can’t imagine someone saying: ‘This is a good product. I’ll buy the reviewer’s book.’ ‘ He pointed out that he savaged Apple’s iMovie ’08 in his Times blog, even as he was writing a ‘Missing Manual’ for it.

“Keller said that for Pogue and others like him, ‘their jobs at The Times and their other revenue streams are dependent on their credibility. If they do anything that undermines or diminishes their credibility, they lose everything.’ But, as the paper’s ethics guidelines stress repeatedly, appearances count, and Pogue has taken an occasional drubbing on the Internet over his conflict.

“When the paper signed Pogue in 2000, said William Schmidt, a deputy managing editor, it allowed him to continue the ‘Missing Manuals.’ Editors anticipated that the books would be mainly about software and that Pogue would be reviewing hardware, but that distinction disappeared. Editors also may not have realized how quickly the manuals would be produced after the introduction of a new product, Schmidt said.”

Read more here.

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