OLD Media Moves

The NYT and its relationship with CNBC

September 30, 2009


In Monday’s New York Times, business reporter Brian Stelter wrote a nicely detailed story about CNBC affiliates overseas and how their content is often more subdued than their American counterpart.

The story included analysis that the Times is known for, and it’s a story about a major media property that has gone ignored.

One important fact was missing from the story, however. Since January 2008, the Times and CNBC have had a content-sharing agreement mostly involve posting Times articles and other written material on CNBC’s site, and CNBC video on the Times site. That relationship was not mentioned in the story.

Such a disclosure has become more important in business journalism in recent years. The Times, for example, recently increased its disclosures related to technology columnist David Pogue‘s content to reflect his business relationships with some of the companies he writes about after criticism was raised.

Business editor Larry Ingrassia told Talking Biz News that such disclosures are decided on a case-by-case basis. He said that the paper didn’t feel as if such a disclosure was needed in Stelter’s story because the article was about a small piece of CNBC’s business.

“Is this something a reasonable reader needs to know in evaluating a story?” said Ingrassia on Wednesday afternoon. “In this case, probably not. In other cases, it might be.”

Ingrassia added that the Times would be more likely to disclose the relationship with CNBC if it wrote about the competition between CNBC and Fox Business Network.

“Clearly, that has much more relevance,” said Ingrassia. “We try to mention it when we think it’s an impact to the story.”

A search through the paper’s online archives shows that the lack of a disclosure related to the CNBC agreement is not unusual. Since the content sharing agreement with CNBC was announced on Jan. 7, 2008, the Times has run 389 articles mentioning CNBC.

Of those, there were 42 that were either about or significantly mentioned CNBC. Of those, 35 stories did not disclose the paper’s relationship with CNBC.

The Times has run seven stories that mentioned the content-sharing agreement — including the story about the content-sharing agreement — and appended a correction to one story that disclosed the relationship.

An Oct. 2, 2008 story, written by Stelter and Jacques Steinberg, received this correction eight days later: An article last Friday about an increase in television ratings for Fox Business Network and CNBC during the financial crisis omitted CNBC’s relationship to The New York Times. CNBC, which is owned by NBC Universal, has a content-sharing agreement with The Times.

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