Monday, March 15, 2010

Times Reminds Freelance Writers About Its Ethics Policies

New York Times freelance writers got a reminder today from management on ethics in this memo:

Date: Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 11:09 AM


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 ( ) 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 ( 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.


Philip B. Corbett
Associate Managing Editor for Standards

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