Tag Archives: Ethics

Reporting on business, or becoming a business?

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Tom Steinert-Threlkeld of Multichannel News writes that CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo has a bigger ethical dilemma than accepting a plane ride on the Citigroup corporate jet.

Tom Steinert-ThrelkeldSteinert-Threlkeld wrote, “Now that she has climbed her own ladder of success, on the CNBC, Wall Street Journal and Business Week platforms, she has produced her own conundrum. The real revelation of the last month has been her decision to trademark the ‘Money Honey’ brand. In eight filings found on the Web site of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Bartiromo is listed as the owner of the ‘Money Honey’ mark for a whole host of products and services aimed at children, ranging from a TV series to electronic chat rooms to dolls and doll accessories. Stuff for the next generation of would-be financial journalists.

“This is her economic right. And she can probably manage the merchandising of the trademark; or have some outfit manage the business for her.

“But what it does is blur the definition of who she is. Is she reporting on business or conducting business? Is she separate and objective from the crowd she writes about or part of it? And is she carefully protecting herself from any insinuation that, in a case like that with Thomson, that she is using her gender instead of her skill to get scoops?

“Wish that the brand she had trademarked was more businesslike. Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey used … their own names. But ‘Money Honey’?

“Bartiromo not only doesn’t discourage the use. She endorses it. She looks like she plans to trade on it.

“That could make it hard for her — and female journalists following in her footsteps — to avoid insinuation that somehow their stature as ‘honeys’ help them, on the beat, every day.

“And even if well-meant, the deliberate use and marketing of ‘Money Honey’ as a personally-owned mark offers no protection if another Citigroup ruckus comes along.”

Read more here.

GE CEO backs Bartiromo

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General Electric Co. CEO Jeffrey Immelt told Variety that a review was done of the actions of CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo, who took a trip on the Citigroup corporate jet, and her actions have been cleared.

Maria BartiromoGE is the parent company of the business news cable channel.

Michael Learmonth of Variety wrote, “Indeed, GE topper Jeffrey Immelt, who was traveling in the Middle East at the time, was apprised of an internal review conducted by CNBC brass. ‘We completed a review,’ Immelt said Thursday. ‘Substantially, I don’t think she did anything wrong.’

“Moreover, Immelt said he supports Bartiromo’s jet-setting and speaking at corporate events. ‘We encouraged her to do (the trips) to build the brand,’ he said. ‘I support Maria and I support CNBC.’

“Immelt’s remarks came after newly appointed NBC U chief Jeff Zucker told Daily Variety that Bartiromo ‘did nothing wrong’ and said the story is being perpetuated by those ‘jealous of her success.’”

Read more here.

Bartiromo wouldn't make it at Motley Fool

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Motley Fool contributor S.J. Caplan, a former vice president and assistant general counsel of Goldman Sachs and former vice president and derivative finance specialist at Lehman Brothers, writes that CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo would not have been able to make her trip on the Citigroup jet if she worked for the personal finance news site.

Motley FoolCaplan wrote, “The Fool is guided by a strict disclosure policy based on transparency and accountability. Writers disclose any ownership of a stock discussed at the end of each article, and employees must reveal their holdings on their personal profile pages. Employees must hold stocks they own for at least 30 days; they can’t write about a stock in the 10 days before or after they buy or sell that stock; and they’re forbidden to trade based on knowledge about articles yet to be published.

“We also adhere to a Code of Foolish Conduct that sets high ethical standards. We can’t accept or solicit compensation for activities performed for the Fool, and we must avoid situations in which our personal interests may conflict with the company’s. Even the appearance of impropriety is admonished. As for gifts, benefits exceeding $100 from those who may have a business relationship with the company are also a no-no, unless permission is granted in writing.

“We believe these guidelines help define us as responsible folks who value the integrity of the market and the importance of financial communication. By respecting these rules, we hope that we earn your trust as well.”

Read more here.

NYTimes reporter won't testify in drug company case

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The New York Sun is reporting that New York Times reporter Alex Berenson will not testify in a case involving internal drug company documents he obtained and wrote stories about.

Alex BerensonJoseph Goldstein wrote, “The judge, Jack Weinstein of U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, had asked the reporter, Alex Berenson, to testify voluntarily about how he obtained the documents, which reportedly discuss health risks connected to the Eli Lilly drug Zyprexa. In the invitation to Mr. Berenson, Judge Weinstein suggests that the reporter engaged in ‘a conspiracy to obtain and publish’ the Zyprexa documents.

“Judge Weinstein, who is overseeing several lawsuits against Eli Lilly by users of the drug, had placed the documents under a protective order.

“In a letter dated Monday, a Times attorney, George Freeman, told Judge Weinstein that Mr. Berenson would not be appearing in his courtroom today.

“‘As a matter of long-held principle, we believe that it would be inappropriate for any of our journalists voluntarily to testify about news gathering methods at the Times,’ Mr. Freeman wrote.

“Mr. Berenson received the Eli Lilly documents from an attorney in Alaska who had subpoenaed them from an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the Zyprexa lawsuits.”

Read more here.

Bloomberg corrects story; IR expert impressed

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Dominic Jones, who writes a blog on the IRWebReport site about issues affecting business news and how it’s disseminating, came away impressed after a Bloomberg reporter corrected a story written from a misleading Nasdaq release.

BloombergJones wrote, “Bloomberg impressed me by how they handled this. I got two emails from [Bloomberg reporter] Edgar Ortega keeping me abreast of their actions.

“Having been a reporter, I can tell you that things like this would really piss me off. Often you get a call from a source who says they have a release coming out soon. They ‘groom’ you on what to expect and you start working on your story. When the release finally comes out, you’re ready while the other reporters are still trying to parse the news. Only problem is the story you have is pushing the source’s preferred slant. Stuff like this gives the public relations profession a bad name with journalists.

“And again, Nasdaq should know better.”

Read more here.

Note to CNBC: This is the problem

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Business news cable network CNBC, already reeling this year for having to defend one of its stars for taking a plane ride on a corporate jet of a company it covers, is giving out awards to executives.

The Third Annual CNBC Executive Leadership Awards were given out recently, and they were given to people such as Citigroup CFO Sallie Krawcheck and the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Google.

Can anybody else think of a business media outlet that gives out such major awards to the people and companies they cover?

CNBC, which televised the event on Monday, has a bigger ethics problem than Mariagate. The line is being blurred even further between the journalism and the promotional aspects of what it does. I note that the Wall Street Journal had been a sponsor of these awards, but it’s name is no longer attached to the event. Did they get smart?

Mariagate is now being satirized

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Ad Age’s Simon Dumenco has his own take on the controversry surrounding CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo, and it includes him now adhering to a new set of ethical standards.

Dumenco wrote, “Effective immediately, I’ve decided to adhere to higher-than-ever ethical standards. To wit:

Maria BartiromoMy travel policy
“Henceforth, I will only accept rides on corporate jets from corporations that I cover if, when the stewardess is serving me a can of Coke, I get to keep the whole can. (None of this lots-of-ice-in-a-cup and half-a-can-of-Coke stuff for me. I want the entire can. Those cute little half-cans of Coke are OK, but I want two of them.)

My merchandising policy
“Not to dwell on Maria, but just before Money Honeygate blew up, she reportedly filed to trademark her ‘Money Honey’ nickname, registering it for use on stuff like school supplies, piggy banks, mouse pads, jigsaw puzzles, cookie jars, dolls and backpacks, among other items.

“Personally, I’d buy a David Carr dolly, a Michael Wolff corkscrew and a Nick Denton tea cozy before I ever bought a Money Honey mouse pad — but whatever. The important thing, as I contemplate merchandising myself (either via the Media Guy name or through another nickname, such as the Hissy Sissy), is that I set clear boundaries regarding what’s appropriately dignified for a columnist of my lofty stature.”

Read more here. As the T-shirt my 10-year-old wears states, “Sarcasm: It’s one of the many services I offer.”

'Reliable Sources' guests discuss Bartiromo

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Howard Kurtz, the media reporter for the Washington Post and host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” had a panel of journalists discuss the ethics of CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo accepting a plane ride on the Citigroup corporate jet on Sunday.

Here are some of the comments:

EMILY ROONEY, HOST, “BEAT THE PRESS,” WGBH: I don’t know. That one makes me very uncomfortable.

Emily RooneyFor one thing, why were the other executives booted off the flight if it was a group meeting and she was there to develop some programming? Why — why was it — we’re assuming now that they were alone. That’s sort of the way the story has come out. So I’d say I feel uncomfortable about it.

DAVID CARR, MEDIA COLUMNIST, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, when we see CNBC has reimbursed Citigroup for the costs, they paid for half of what it cost to fly a chartered jet back? I don’t think so. They paid a commercial fare and left it at that, and that seems to be a significant gratuity.

FRANK AHRENS, MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT WRITER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Right, that’s exactly the case. The price of a commercial ticket is much, much lower than that of a private jet.

Listen, I mean, part of Maria’s job is to promote CNBC for the network. The question is, within what boundaries?

MORE ROONEY: You know, it’s so interesting. I was thinking about this, this week, also, because nobody used to cover business. That was — it was only in the last couple of decades that business news has become really in the forefront. And now it’s sort of in the same genre as sports, and that is that you really have to get close to your subjects in order to cover them, and then these cozy relationships develop.

I think it’s different than any other kind of reporting, different than political reporting, different from any other — so just that sense that you have to get an intimate relationship going. And that’s what happened with her.

Read the rest of the transcript here.

The news, or the Money Honey?

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Washington & Lee journalism ethics professor Ed Wasserman writes in the Miami Herald that both Maria Bartiromo and cable business news channel CNBC failed in the recent brouhaha about her taking a plane ride on the Citigroup corporate jet.

Ed WassermanWasserman wrote, “The problem here isn’t just that a richly paid news diva is tone deaf to flagrant conflicts that would end the careers of lesser beings, who are forbidden to accept a coffee from people they cover. Bartiromo’s squirrelly standards were already apparent in 2003, when she interviewed then-Citigroup chief Sanford Weill on the air while noting she owned 1,000 shares of his company’s stock.

“Lately she had taken steps, the New York Post says, to trademark ‘Money Honey,’ which started out as a derisive nickname. That would enable her to get royalties from T-shirts, bumper stickers, chewy toys and the like.

“The surprise isn’t Bartiromo; it’s her handlers. In 2003 CNBC, chagrined by her Weill interview, radically tightened its conflict-of-interest rules. Now the same network sees no problem.

“CNBC no longer perceives a difference between journalist and show pony. Bartiromo’s jet-setting isn’t, as the network claims, source development. She isn’t doing legwork on stories. She’s a corporate emissary and brand-enhancement, helping favored companies — many of them CNBC advertisers — to put on successful events. She partners with the world she’s supposed to cover.

“So what happens when her duties as a journalist — duties to inform us, her public — obligate her to report news that would displease her network-approved consorts on the intercontinental banquet circuit? Do we get the news, or do they get the Money Honey?”

Read more here.

Biz media have bigger ethical issues than being cozy with sources

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TheDeal.com executive editor Yvette Kantrow wants to know why the media has gotten so up in arms about CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo taking a trip on the Citigroup jet when there appear to be bigger ethical issues surrounding business journalism.

TheDeal.comKantrow wrote, “Show us a big-deal TV journalist who hasn’t sat on or moderated a panel either organized by, sponsored by, or sitting alongside people they cover or people who advertise and we’ll show you a useful stock pick gleaned from watching CNBC. Ink-stained wretches aren’t immune from this either. Fortune magazine, for example, puts on several conferences each year (The Leadership Forum, The Global Forum, etc., etc.), where many of its editors and reporters share the podium with both sources and advertisers. (The Deal, like many media companies, is also in the conference business.) But nobody ever claims these activities compromise the journalists’ integrity or turn journalists into marketing tools.

“Ironically, much of the Bartiromo brouhaha has taken place as evidence of the ‘cozy’ relationships many journalists have with their sources couldn’t be on clearer display. More than 200 journalists, Bartiromo included, have just returned from Davos, Switzerland, where they spent a week trying desperately to do the very thing for which Bartiromo is being tarred and feathered — cavorting with the high-powered people they cover. The New York Times, for example, had at least eight people in Davos blogging for its Dealbook Web site, as well as a slew of columnists, including Floyd Norris, Nicholas Kristof, David Brooks and panel-moderator Tom Friedman, rubbing elbows with the world’s elite.

“We’re pretty sure the Times contingent, like other journalists there, flew to Davos at their employers’ expense. But what about all those lavish parties that are the lifeblood of Davos? Will media outlets be reimbursing McKinsey & Co., or PricewaterhouseCoopers or Google Inc. or the other Davos corporate party-throwers for the canapes and champagne their journalists downed as they searched for celebrities? OK, munching on a cocktail shrimp is not the same thing as hitching a ride on a corporate jet, but for many of the reporters roaming around Davos, it’s about as glamorous as their lives will get. Should they be doing it on some corporation’s dime?”

Read more here.