Last month, Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici questioned if the New York Times will “give David Pogue another pass on ethics” after the technology writer was featured in a public relations newsletter.
According to Bercovici, “Pogue has weathered one mini-scandal after another in his years as the star technology columnist.”
In this case, a public relations company Ragan Communications is charging $159 for PR professionals to learn from Pogue which PR pitches work and which have been the “best and worst.”
Bercovici noted the New York Times ethics guidelines clearly states that its journalists cannot work in public relations workshops. The guidelines read:
“It is an inherent conflict for a journalist to perform public relations work, paid or unpaid. Staff members may not counsel individuals or organizations on how to deal successfully with the news media…They should not take part in public relations workshops that charge admission or imply privileged access to the press, or participate in surveys asking their opinion of an organization’s media relations or public image.”
Bercovici reported last month that the New York Times PR department told him that Pogue’s “editors are discussing this outside engagement with him,” but that since Pogue is a freelancer, he “has some leeway in work he does on his own time.”
But, on July 6, The New York Times’ public editor, Arthur Brisbane, weighed in on the matter and reported that Pogue is no longer allowed to make “any more speeches like this one to public relations professionals,” as Poynter’s Jim Romenesko noted. Brisbane also highlighted Pogue’s status as a freelancer.
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Brisbane reported that Pogue has stated he won’t “do any more speaking for Ragan or any PR-related event or organization.” Pogue also commented that he will ask his editor for the OK in advance for “every single talk” he plans to do.
Before Brisbane’s announcement that Pogue will begin to get the OK in advance before doing PR work, Business Insider commented that “Pogue gets away with more than the average freelancer… because he’s much more than the average freelancer.”
Bercovici added that Pogue “is a one-man brand” with a large Twitter audience so he is “all but indispensable to the Times.”
Former Public Editor’s Comments
Bercovici also noted former New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt’s highlighting Pogue “as one of several Times stars who seem to be exempt from strictures others must observe.”
In that Sept. 2009 column titled “He Works for the Times, Too,” Hoyt focused on Pogue work outside of the Times. When Pogue advised New York Times readers to order an Apple operating system as he was “writing a ‘Missing Manual'” on that system “available for pre-order on Amazon,” Hoyt cited three media ethicists who stated Pogue has a conflict of interest.
While Hoyt noted that the issue of conflicts of interest with freelancers may not be specific to Pogue, he did comment that “No Times journalist is in quite the same position as Pogue — reviewing products and simultaneously writing guides to them.”
The New York Observer noted in a previous column that Pogue’s 2009 speaking engagements were criticized as well because he wasn’t punished whereas another Times writer was fired for one ethical violation (of accepting a “paid trip to write about junket travel culture for a separate publication”).