Nitasha Tiku, a senior writer with Gawker, got her hands on a very questionable 2013 email trail between New York Times “You’re the Boss” blog contributor W. Cliff Oxford and a tech PR firm representative.
Oxford requested airfare and hotel reimbursement in February to meet with one of the PR firm’s clients. According to Tiku, the PR rep eventually wrangled these travel particulars using Starwood Points and Delta Miles, but by that time, Oxford had made his own arrangements.*
The PR rep insists that Oxford tied all this to some possible resulting coverage of the client in the Times. Oxford – who spoke with Tiku following the publication of the Gawker article – vehemently denied these claims. He says all expense considerations were associated only with his separate business the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. Tiku also got a post-publication comment from the paper:
A representative from the Times emailed the following comment:
Editors have reviewed this situation in detail with Cliff. He says these exchanges were strictly regarding his role as a consultant with his company, the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. He did not make any suggestion that he would be covering the companies for “You’re the Boss” and in fact specifically noted that he was not representing The Times.
Tiku prefaces her article update with the observation that “the parable of Cliff Oxford seems to be a lesson in the kind of degradation of quality — and ethical standards — that can happen when a news organization cedes content to contributors.” She also links in the Gawker comments to her site’s coverage in 2009 of an NYT “Critical Shopper” blogger fired for accepting a free junket to Jamaica.
*Correction – 07/02/13: Tiku kindly informed via email that we carelessly misread a passage relied upon for this observation. Although she has modified the article sentence in question (see below) to make clear that the last “he” referred to the PR flack’s client, not Oxford, the mistake was entirely ours. FishbowlNY apologizes for the error.
“The flack scrounged to meet Oxford’s request with Starwood Points and Delta Miles, but the client had to cancel the trip because of a family emergency.”