Tag Archives: Ethics
New York Times public editor Barney Calame writes in his Sunday column about ethical problems related to a freelancer who has been writing regularly for the paper’s business section.
The writer, John Biggs, wrote two short items about Samsung for the paper last year and had taken a trip to Japan paid for by the company.
Calame, a former Society of American Business Editors and Writers president, wrote, “The freelancer who took the Samsung junket, John Biggs, had responded to the online ethics questionnaire for outside contributors in May, shortly after it became a requirement. ‘Have you accepted any free trips, junkets or press trips in the last two years?’ one question asked. His negative response was accurate at that time, according to Mr. Whitney, who is also the paperâ€™s standards editor.
“After taking the October junket, primarily to write for CrunchGear.com, a blog about electronic gear, Mr. Biggs told me, he ‘simply forgot’ about updating his ethics questionnaire response so Times editors would be aware of his conflict of interest and not assign him any Samsung stories. His editor doesnâ€™t share his vague recollection that he mentioned Samsungâ€™s role in his trip. In any case, comments he posted on CrunchGear on Oct. 17, the day he arrived in Seoul, make it clear to me that he understood the unethical aspect of junkets. ‘Iâ€™m here with Samsung,’ he wrote, ‘suckling on the sweet teat of junket whoredom.’
“Unfortunately, The Timesâ€™s online ethics questionnaire system requires updating of freelancer responses only every two years. Mr. Biggs, who in recent months has been writing brief articles almost every week for the business section, wasnâ€™t asked to update his responses before writing the two stories about Samsung products in November.”
Read more here.
Boston Herald business reporter Jesse Noyes takes a look at the Maria Bartiromo/Citigroup controversy on Saturday and quotes a Boston University professor who believes that Bartiromo is not the typical business journalist.
Noyes wrote, “If sheâ€™s the face of CNBC she should be held to a higher standard than anybody else,’ said John Carroll, a regular columnist on Greater Bostonâ€™s Beat the Press edition on WGBH-TV and a communications professor at Boston University. ‘Theyâ€™ve created a lower standard for her.’”
Later, Noyes added, “But some media experts questioned whether Bartiromoâ€™s role at CNBC blurs the line between news gathering and public relations.
“Could you imagine Walter Cronkite . . . being embroiled in such a controversy as this,’ said Sasha Norkin, a professor of broadcast journalism at Boston University. ‘(Bartiromo) is a reporter, but really sheâ€™s the face of CNBC and sheâ€™s out there doing PR for them.’
“And while CNBC is getting mired in controversy as the story snowballs, itâ€™s unlikely Bartiromoâ€™s image will be hurt, Carroll said.
“‘I donâ€™t think (Bartiromo is) representative really of business journalism. I think sheâ€™s sort of representative of brand-name business journalism, and there are not many of them,’ he said.”
Read more here.
Forbes.com columnist Gary Weiss thinks that the controversy surrounding CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo taking a plane trip with a Citigroup exec on its corporate jet is way overblown.
Weiss wrote, “Maria may be, well….. a bit too close to one of the companies she covers. That, however, is hardly a hanging offense in journalism and in financial journalism in particular. I railed against media puffiness in Wall Street Versus America, but what troubled me was the substance of the coverage, not the ethics of the journos.
“Where’s the ethical issue here? Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see it. She flew around in a corporate jet, with the knowledge of her employer. (They were ‘preapproved’ by CNBC, according to the Wall Street Journal.) She spoke to Citi clients, which I agree is not a great thing but, again, it was with the knowledge of her employer and is not against CNBC’s ethical rules. Above all, she did not get paid for them.
“There are plenty of reasons to get exercised over the financial press — such as the puffiness of much of the coverage, as exemplified by Maria’s BusinessWeek column — but flying around in somebody’s jet, after full disclosure to one’s employer, is not one of them.”
Read more here.
Jonathan Berr, the editor of desperateinvestors.com, calls Friday for CNBC to fire Maria Bartiromo because of her close relationships with sources.
Berr, a former reporter for Bloomberg News and TheStreet.com, wrote, “Maria Bartiromo, who rose to fame as CNBC’s Money Honey during the bull market of the 90s, should be fired for showing incredible lapses in judgment regarding her relationship with ousted Citigroup Inc. executive Todd Thomson.
“One of the cardinal rules of journalism is that you aren’t supposed to write about or show favor toward your friends. The Wall Street Journal’s (subscription required) expose of Bartiromo’s relationship with Thomson shows that they were at a minimum buddies.
“What’s more disturbing, however, is CNBC’s reluctance to look into the matter further. I’d like to know if CNBC ever reimbursed Citigroup for Bartiromo’s air travel. Moreover, doesn’t the channel’s corporate owner General Electric Co. have an ethics rule or two about employes accepting gratuities from clients? Citigroup, after all, does buy advertising on CNBC.”
Read more here.
Marketwatch media columnist Jon Friedman points out something today about the Maria Bartiromo/Citigroup flap that no one else has bothered to note: Why hasn’t her own network, CNBC, covered the story?
Friedman wrote, “Apparently, CNBC’s damage-control strategy is to hope that this unwanted intrusion will play itself out and simply go away. The network may not be so lucky, in this age of blogs.
“Anyway, CNBC bills itself as The Worldwide Leader in Business News. Bartiromo is a legitimate TV star. Those two factors alone make the story worthwhile and compel CNBC to report on it.”
Later, he added, “CNBC is giving Bartiromo what amounts to a free pass. To some outraged media observers, CNBC’s neglect seems like something of a scandal in itself. After all, how can one of its journalists ever again bemoan corporate disclosure problems with a straight face?
“Officials at the company maintain the network and Bartiromo have done nothing wrong. They don’t want to inflame a touchy situation by dignifying what insiders describe as scurrilous rumors. Further, the network’s officials contend that there was no conflict in their decision to leave her name out of its Citigroup coverage. The CNBC officials argue that the network’s coverage of Citigroup has been aggressive.”
Read more here. His conclusion is that CNBC has damaged its credibility by not reporting about its employee.
New York Times reporter Geraldine Fabrikant takes a close look at CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo and her association with Citigroup in Friday’s newspaper.
Bartiromo’s trip on a Citi corporate jet is apparently what led to the ouster of one of its executives earlier this week. Fabrikant reported that it wasn’t the first time Bartiromo had flown on the plane.
Fabrikant wrote, “CNBC also denied that Ms. Bartiromo had involvement with Citigroup more so than other businesses. In its statement, CNBC said, ‘In 2006 alone, she made 46 public appearances on behalf of CNBC.’
“The CNBC representative said that as the on-air figure most closely associated with the channel, Ms. Bartiromo routinely made promotional appearances at corporate events. Many of the corporations advertise on CNBC. Citigroup is among the biggest advertisers, a CNBC spokesman said.
“Of the 46 appearances Ms. Bartiromo made in 2006, the CNBC representative said, only three were on behalf of Citigroup. The list of other companies with events at which she appeared last year included Google, Schwab and Dow Jones.
“In no case was Ms. Bartiromo paid for speaking at the events, the CNBC representative said. The channel defended Ms. Bartiromoâ€™s travel arrangements. The statement said, ‘Her travel has been company-related and approved, and involved legitimate business assignments.’ The CNBC representative added that the awards event in London was a routine appearance for Ms. Bartiromo.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz entered into the Bartiromo coverage on Friday, noting that her close association with some companies is raising questions.
Kurtz wrote, “CNBC executives say they approved and paid for each trip, and reimbursed Citigroup for the corporate flight. But the time and distance involved raise questions about how close Bartiromo has gotten to some companies she covers and whether she has become more of a celebrity journalist than the Wall Street workhorse of her earlier years.”
Later, Kurtz wrote, “While some of the 46 events involved other major corporations, such as Google, Charles Schwab and General Electric, they also included appearances on behalf of the AARP, Milken Institute, New York University and various charities.
“CNBC executives say that Bartiromo was fostering positive publicity for herself and her network while developing high-level sources among companies she covers. ‘I don’t think there’s even the appearance of a conflict of interest,’ said one executive who asked not to be identified while discussing personnel matters. ‘We paid our way. This is what we cover. This is what we do.’”
Someone pointed out a Q&A interview between Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and Forbes writer Victoria Murphey Barret to me today, but I’m just now getting around to reading it. The interview was posted this morning, and it includes comments from Benioff on how to present a company to the media.
Benioff provides the following suggestions in dealing with journalists:
“Reporters are writers. They like to write stories with a protagonist, a villain and a plot. Most entrepreneurs aren’t willing to present their company as part of the story. Our story was that the big evil software companies were extorting millions from customers. And the Internet was coming to save these customers. Then you fill in the details and figure out what’s next in the story line.”
“You have to be able to relate your product to something familiar. Journalists will use your metaphor in their story because they can’t come up with one on their own. It is a hard, not trivial, thing to do. And I spend hours and hours on this, because I think it is so crucial to getting the message out.”
“At user conferences, reporters were led around like sheep. But reporters don’t all want the same story. You have to tell each reporter something a little different.”
“Reporters think I value my relationships with each of them. I have a list of 25 reporters I consider influential worldwide. I pay special attention to this group. I always answer their e-mails….If that 25 believes in what you’re doing, and write about you, that’s great.”
Read more here. I can’t make this stuff up any better. Remember that this is the guy that met with Wall Street Journal managing edior Paul Steiger to complain about a story that mentioned his mansion in Hawaii, and he also made life difficult for the reporter when she was in Hawaii.
Reuters reporter Dan Wilchins writes late Wednesday that the actions by CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo to accept a ride back from China on a Citigroup jet, which led to the firing of a bank executive, raises ethical questions about the business cable news channel’s star.
Wilchins wrote, “Personal relationships are crucial to reporters who vie to get stories first. But friendships that are too close can raise questions about objectivity, said Bob Steele, senior ethics faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a training and research center for journalists.
“Was there any personal connection with Mr. Thomson that could raise concerns about competing loyalties? It’s a reasonable question to ask, and important for her to answer in a meaningful way,” Steele said.
“Flying on Citigroup’s corporate jet could be seen as too close a relationship, even if the network paid for the flight, said Joe Bernt, professor of journalism at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.
“Experts said one could argue that the plane ride gave Bartiromo access to a powerful figure at Citigroup, much the way White House reporters may have access to the U.S. president by flying on Air Force One.
“But the analogy is not perfect, said Deni Elliott, who teaches media ethics at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. More than one reporter typically flies on Air Force One at the same time, and it may be the only time that reporters can get access to a president, Elliott said.
“Citigroup’s $5 million sponsorship of a Sundance Channel show that Bartiromo was to host with other personalities is also nettlesome if Bartiromo and Thomson are friends, said Pamela Luecke, professor of business journalism at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.
“Bartiromo is no longer scheduled to appear on the Sundance Channel show, the Wall Street Journal reported.”
Read more here.
Fox News Radio host John Gibson has an editorial about the plane ride given to CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo on a Citigroup corporate jet that apparently led to an executive at the company losing his job.
Gibson makes some excellent points related to business journalism.
He wrote, “Now remember: This is a financial journalist taking a cushy ride halfway around the world on a corporate jet. She says she did nothing wrong, that GE and Citi settled the charges for the flight at the corporate level.
“As a GE shareholder I’d like to know what GE paid Citi for the use of that private jet. My staff made calls today. If I wanted to rent a G4 corporate jet I’d pay $5,700 per hour times the 17.5-hour flight from Beijing to Los Angeles and on to New York. I get a grand total of nearly $100,000. Just by the way, a first-class ticket on Continental Airlines is $3,900. So we seem to have an overcharge on a financial journalists’ air travel of 25 times or a 2,500 percent upcharge.
“Now, did I double-check the figures? Yes. We base our figures on information from airplanning.com, which charters everywhere.
“The conclusion? Somebody seems to have paid a lot of money for CNBC’s financial journalist to fly home from a China junket.
“So who paid? Did GE stockholders pay the full freight to bring the GE employee home? Or did GE stick Citi with the bulk of the bill, and it should be Citi shareholders screaming bloody murder?
“And just by the way: On the journalism issue, why could Citi want to treat a financial journalist to this kind of high-octane perk? Why would GE allow their CNBC financial journalist to be placed in this position of a possible conflict of interest?”
Read more here.
More coverage emerged Wednesday over the ouster of Citigroup banker Todd Thomson due to his inability to control costs, including kicking other Citi executives off a flight from China so that CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo could use the plane.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting Wednesday that some Citi executives advised Thomson that he needed to limit his contact with Bartiromo. It also reported that Thomson “had used more than $5 million from his division’s marketing budget to sponsor a new television program for the Sundance Channel, people familiar with the matter say. The program’s hosts were slated to include CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo and actor Robert Redford.”
The New York Post, meanwhile, noted that the flight cost about $50,000.
Staff writer Roddy Boyd wrote, “Based on prevailing operating rates for a swanky Gulfstream executive class jet, Citi largely underwrote the ritzy flight of the high-profile ‘Money Honey’ to the tune of between $2,300 and $4,000 per hour.
“Assuming a $3,000 per hour average cost for the 16-hour flight to New York, Citi shelled out $48,000, not including the commercial airfare for the three execs Thomson bumped in order to fly alone with Bartiromo.
“A CNBC spokesman said that Bartiromo only paid ‘prevailing commercial rates’ for her seat, approximately $3,000 to $4,000.”
Later, Boyd reported, “Even before the controversial flight, Bartiromo and Thomson often appeared together on panels at financial conferences and have been quoted in articles about each other several times.
“In a recent Success magazine cover profile, Thomson gushed that Bartiromo – who sits on a council with him at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School – ‘truly understands business and brings clarity and authenticity to the table.’”
Read more here. This coverage makes business journalists look like they’ll accept favors from sources. A CNBC spokesman said Bartiromo used the flight for “source development,” but it seems she could have gotten time with Thomson other ways because of their ongoing relationship.