Conflicts of interest

Midday roundup: Dec. 7, 2011

Stories being talked about today:

Correction: The original version of this post misidentified David Wessel. Read more


Oregonian’s new Twitter guidelines tell reporters that retweets are endorsements

AJR | The Buttry Diary
The “retweets do not equal endorsements” line has become boilerplate in many journalists’ Twitter bios, but Caitlin Johnston reports that The Oregonian is taking the opposite stand: “The new rules will urge reporters to assume any retweet is seen as an endorsement, not just passing something along, Editor Peter Bhatia says. … ‘I don’t see this as any different than the limits most journalistic organizations ask of its journalists in the way they engage in partisan politics or political speech.’” People at and the San Francisco Chronicle tell Johnston why they’ve opted against prescriptive guidelines on tweeting. || Doing it wrong? “I don’t think Peter has enough experience with Twitter to make good decisions about how his staff should use it,” writes Steve Buttry. “I think if he engaged more, he would understand Twitter and retweeting better and see the folly in trying to inhibit his staff’s use of Twitter.” Bhatia responds that he’s trying to be cautious about how retweets are perceived. “Our credibility is our most important possession.” || Earlier: Why the “not an endorsement” line doesn’t work ( | AP issues staff guidelines on retweets, no ‘personal opinions’ allowed or implied ( Read more


George Will: Wife’s work on Rick Perry’s campaign doesn’t pose problem

PoliticoABC News
Asked about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s election chances on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, syndicated columnist George Will disclosed that his wife has joined the campaign, then proceeded to say that candidates can recover from gaffes like the ones that have plagued Perry. Will’s wife Mari Maseng, who’s worked in politics for 30 years, is advising the Perry campaign on messaging and debate preparation. Will said on the show that some staffers for Mitt Romney had tried to make an issue about it. Politico’s Dylan Byers notes that Will has used his column to criticize Romney, including an Oct. 28 column headlined, “The pretzel candidate.” Earlier this month, NPR’s Michele Norris said she would step down as host of NPR’s “All Things Considered” because her husband had taken a job with the Obama re-election campaign. “So why is it that in identical situations, Norris felt she needed to disclose and step away from her position to protect her organization from conflict of interest, yet Will didn’t feel the same action was necessary in his case?” asks Robin Marty of Care2. || Related: Chelsea Clinton to become special correspondent for NBC News (The New York Times) Read more


Times-Picayune parent pays Saints players to tweet about paper’s team site

New Orleans Times-Picayune
Advance Digital is paying New Orleans Saints players Drew Brees, Lance Moore, Tracy Porter, Pierre Thomas and Jonathan Vilma to tweet a plug for the Times-Picayune’s redesigned Saints site. Advance’s marketing team didn’t consult with editors or reporters before launching the campaign. (Advance Digital is the Internet arm of Advance Publications Inc., which owns the Times-Picayune.)

“There’s no suggestion that the act of paid endorsement by a player reflects on the coverage of The Times-Picayune,” says Advance Digital content veep John Hassell. He wouldn’t disclose details of the agreement, including how much each player was paid.

The Times-Picayune’s story on the deal notes that this “unusual arrangement” highlights the advertising potential of Twitter as well as the ethical concerns media companies face in using it as a promotional vehicle. Editor Jim Amoss says readers shouldn’t question the independence of his reporters and columnists covering the Saints. “Any sponsored messages, whether on the Web or in the newspaper, are designated as such and are distinct from our editorial content,” he says in a statement.
New Orleans radio talk-show host received $250,000 from landfill owner Read more

1 Comment

NPR host will remain with ‘Opera’ show after becoming spokesperson for ‘Occupy DC’

Baltimore Sun | Roll Call | | Washington Post
The longtime host of “World of Opera,” Lisa Simeone, will continue with the program, produced by WDAV in North Carolina, says Lisa Gray, director of marketing for the public radio station.

Questions were raised about Simeone’s role with the show after it was revealed that she has become a spokesperson for the Washington, D.C.-based “Occupy Wall Street” events.

Gray says Simeone did not violate her agreement with the station, where she works as a freelancer, and she will remain as host.

However, there are “still conversations going on around the show,” related to whether NPR will continue to distribute it.

Simeone, host of  “World of Opera” since 2002, does not understand why NPR is raising questions about her involvement with the “Occupy” movement. She tells the Sun’s David Zurawik:

“I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen — the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly — on my own time in my own life,” Simeone wrote in an email response to questions from the Sun Wednesday night.

“I’m not an NPR employee,” she continued. “I’m a freelancer. NPR doesn’t pay me. I’m also not a news reporter. I don’t cover politics. I’ve never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I’ve done for NPR World of Opera. What is NPR afraid I’ll do — insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?”

Zurawik predicts Simeone’s job as host will end as a result of the conflict, which was revealed by Roll Call’s Neda Semnani Tuesday night, then picked up by The Daily Caller and Fox News on Wednesday. Simeone confirms she was fired Wednesday from “Soundprint,” which does not air on NPR but airs on affiliates, including WAMU, based at American University in Washington. NPR says it had “no contact with the management of the program prior to their decision.” Read more


Philly Daily News ombud defends columnist’s ties to Media Matters

Philadelphia Daily News |
Fox News recently posted a story about Philadelphia Daily News columnist Will Bunch “moonlighting as a Media Matters activisttweeting in support of the [Occupy Wall Street] protests while writing about them.” He told the Fox reporter that “I’ve always written about the media, criticizing the media a lot from a progressive point of view [and] I think my editors are really proud to have someone writing with a point of view.” Daily News public editor Richard Aregood says he isn’t troubled by Bunch’s relationship with Media Matters because “as a reader, I know where Bunch is coming from, just as I know where Sean Hannity is coming from.” He adds:

There is, however, another question, one that only hinted at. Can a reporter have opinions, strong ones, and still be credible on hard news? I believe that’s possible, and know that Bunch knows the difference.

Read more

WSJ confirms side deals in paid circulation boost at Journal’s Europe edition

The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal follows the Guardian’s story about a circulation scheme at the Journal’s sister paper in Europe with its own story confirming many of the details first reported by its competitor. The Guardian’s Nick Davies wrote that the Wall Street Journal Europe “had been channelling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate.” The Journal describes an “alleged deal to boost the reported circulation numbers of The Wall Street Journal Europe, in which the paper sold bulk copies to a consulting firm and simultaneously directed money to the firm for separate services.”

Side deals

A Dutch company called Executive Learning Partnership agreed to buy heavily discounted newspapers as part of a sponsorship arrangement with The Wall Street Journal Europe. In addition to the sponsorship, the Journal in Europe also set up a variety of “side deals” with ELP when the company said it was unhappy about the arrangement, the Journal reports.

The Journal quotes ELP partner Nick Van Heck, who says that the company did provide services in exchange for the payments from the Europe Journal. The Guardian reported on the side deals as well, but reported that when ELP threatened to end its sponsorship — which would cause circulation to drop — that Wall Street Journal Europe publisher Andrew Langhoff “set up a complex scheme to channel money to ELP to pay for the papers it had agreed to buy – effectively buying the papers with the Journal’s own cash.”

The Journal confirms the Guardian’s reporting that the Europe Journal routed the money to ELP through other companies: Read more

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Guardian: WSJ Europe bought its own papers to prop up circulation

Nick Davies reports that the resignation Tuesday of Andrew Langhoff, publisher of The Wall Street Journal Europe, resulted from a “panic” at Dow Jones as the Guardian was probing an alleged scam to prop up the publication’s circulation. If the extensive report is correct, then the Journal’s explanation, and its reporting, of why Langhoff resigned was incomplete at best.

Starting in January 2008, The Wall Street Journal Europe began working with European companies that sponsored seminars for students with leadership potential. The Journal published the sponsors’ names in the paper. “The sponsors paid for that publicity by buying copies of the Journal at a knock-down rate of no more than 5¢ each. Those papers were then distributed to university students,” Davies writes. This arrangement, which was approved by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, accounted for 41 percent of the newspaper’s daily sales. Read more


WSJ Europe publisher resigns after reports he ‘personally pressured’ journalists into covering paper’s business partner

Bloomberg News | The Wall Street Journal
Bloomberg’s Edmund Lee reports that Andrew Langhoff, publisher of Wall Street Journal Europe, has resigned over what Lee called “a possible perception of impropriety” related to a deal between its circulation department and a company called Executive Learning Partnership, a Netherlands-based consulting firm. “Because the agreement could leave the impression that news coverage can be influenced by commercial relationships, as publisher with executive oversight, I believe that my resignation is now the most honorable course,” Langhoff wrote in an email obtained by Bloomberg News. Read more

2 Comments is biased for reform, aims to write with authority

Jay Rosen has published’s guidelines for new reporters, which show how the site’s editors view their mission differently than that of a general-interest news site. The guidelines start off with this declaration: “We only do something if we can do it better than anyone or if no one else is doing it.” Although the site doesn’t have an ideological bent, “we do believe San Diego can and will do better. … If anything, this is our bias.” Reporters shouldn’t worry about getting scooped; they should “worry about not consistently making an impact.” And the guidelines state that while “there is no such thing as objectivity … there is such thing as fairness.” Rosen published the guidelines because they ban “he said, she said” journalism: “The day we write a headline that says: ‘Proposal has pros, cons’ is the day we start dying. … There is no such thing as 50/50 balance. There is a truth and we work our damndest to get there.” || Related: Rosen criticizes “he said, she said” nature of NPR story on abortion clinics in Kansas; Schumacher-Matos asks NPR readers and listeners to weigh in on story about police practices at the Mall of America. Read more


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