Felix Salmon of Reuters argues that Washington & Lee ethics professor Ed Wasserman’s defense of former New York Times Sunday business columnist Ben Stein is weak and ignores some basic facts.
Salmon writes, “Wasserman read four columns by Ben Stein, and on the strength of those four columns concluded that Stein didnâ€™t offer financial advice in his column? I know that journalists are lazy, but thatâ€™s really taking the biscuit. If heâ€™s really going to imply that I was wrong when I said that Stein offers financial advice in his column, he might at least have asked me first why I said that. And it wouldnâ€™t have taken me very long to find for instance this column, where Stein not only offers his ‘best advice’ on investments, but even gives ticker symbols for what to buy.
“Of course Stein gives financial advice: heâ€™s written entire books of the stuff, not to mention his other media appearances and columns elsewhere. Financial advice is a huge part of Steinâ€™s shtick, and thatâ€™s absolutely one of the reasons that FreeScore wanted to hire him: heâ€™s known (unfortunately) as a trusted dispenser of financial advice, and so he comes with some measure of built-in credibility as a financial pitchman. His NYT column is part of what gave him that credibility. So yes, thereâ€™s a massive conflict there.
“Whatâ€™s more, Stein was in direct contravention of the NYTâ€™s own ethics guidelines, which state that NYT journalists â€” and that term includes freelancers such as Stein â€” cannot perform paid PR work. How does Wasserman get around that one?”
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