When the daily e-mail group Thrillist.com held its JetBlue Mystery vacation for 150 journalists and contest winners in October, it raised a huge stink with publications who claimed that having their writers Tweeting about a free trip to Jamaica constituted an ethical violation. Most infamously, Mike Albo was fired from his freelancing gig at The New York Times following the incident.
So if the Gray Lady is taking the stance that even non-full-time employees can’t take gratis perks and write about them (even on their own personal blogs, Facebook accounts, etc.) then it should be a no-brainer that Mary Tripsas, who writes for the Times‘ “Prototype” column, should fall under the same disciplinary measures for writing about 3M Company’s “innovation center.” She penned a column about the center for the Times after being given a free trip (including room and board) for the official tour. But Tripsas is pleading “not guilty.”
See, Tripsas also works for Harvard’s Business School, and when she took the free trip from 3M, the company didn’t know she worked for The New York Times, says the professor. (Uh…) In a letter to the NYTPicker blog, which originally uncovered the lapse, Tripsas wrote:
“I am a professor who does research on innovation and, in fact 3M was not aware of my recent NYT affiliation when they invited me…As a professor, I am sometimes invited to speak to companies about innovation, and it is not unusual for the company to reimburse travel expenses, so 3M did pay for my hotel and airfare. I did not inform the New York Times of that since I viewed the visit as a speaking engagement that was part of my broader academic research.”
But by not informing her employers of her heavy involvement with the company that she just wrote a glowing review of, Tripsas may have made the situation even worse. Conflict of interest? You bet. Gawker is busy making up T-shirts until this mater is settled with Tripsas’ departure.
Read More: Seeing Customers as Partners in Invention —The New York Times