New York Times Sends Friendly Ethical Reminder to Freelancers

nytimes_logo03152010.gifThe New York Times sent an email to its freelance writers today to remind them about its ethical practices.

The message, from Philip Corbett, associate managing editor for standards, informs Times writers that the newspaper has stricter policies on free or discounted travel and products.

The email is nothing special, Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty told us. “It’s a general reminder, part of our continuing efforts to make sure everyone, staff and freelance, is aware of our ethics guidelines.”

Full memo after the jump.


TO: ALL FREELANCE WRITERS

This is a reminder about The Times’s ethics policies for journalists.

As you know, The Times takes very seriously the issue of conflicts of
interest and other problems that might undermine the credibility of
our journalism.

Your freelance contract obliges you to comply with the applicable
provisions of The Times’s policy on Ethical Journalism
(http://www.nytco.com/pdf/NYT_Ethical_Journalism_0904.pdf ) and to
take care to avoid conflicts or the appearance of a conflict. The
provisions pertaining specifically to outside contributors are
reproduced below, but you should review the entire document. Readers
do not distinguish between freelancers and staff reporters in The
Times, so as far as possible we expect outside contributors to adhere
to the same standards as Times staff members.

The ethics rules outline specific requirements while you are on
assignment for The Times. But because of The Times’s high profile, our
freelance contributors are often viewed as “Times writers” even when
they are not specifically working for us. Companies, organizations and
other potential subjects and sources may believe that favors or
special treatment for you — whether you are on assignment or not —
will help them gain favorable treatment in The Times.

Note that our rules on free travel and other free or discounted
products and services are stricter than those of many publications.
Even if such a benefit is not directly connected to a Times
assignment, it can create an appearance that undermines the
credibility of The Times or its contributors. Any questions involving
such benefits should be discussed with your Times editor.

Other common areas of concern include these:

— Work for companies or organizations that The Times may cover.
— Undisclosed ties between the writer and people or institutions
mentioned in an article.
— Lobbying, advocacy or political activities or contributions related
to the area of coverage.

The written guidelines are detailed, but they cannot anticipate every
situation. The best rule of thumb is the simplest: If you have any
questions or doubts about compliance with our policies, ask your Times
editor before proceeding.

When you first signed a contract with The Times, you should have
filled out a questionnaire covering many of these topics. You should
update the questionnaire as often as needed to keep the information
current, so your editors can identify areas that might warrant further
discussion. To review or update your questionnaire, please log in to
the freelancer invoicing (Extranet) site
(https://freelancers.nytimes.com) and follow the “Stringer
Questionnaire” link. If you have questions about this policy, feel
free to call your assigning editor; for technical help with the
invoicing site, please call 1-800-756-3464 (or, from outside the
United States, +1-212-556-2020).

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Philip B. Corbett
Associate Managing Editor for Standards