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Times Reminds Freelance Writers About Its Ethics Policies

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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

Written by newscycle

March 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Ethics, New York Times

New York Times Suspends Kouwe Over Plagiarism Allegations

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Zachery Kouwe was suspended today by The New York Times while the newspaper continues its investigation into allegations of plagiarism.

Jeff Bercovici reports that the business reporter’s work could be under suspicion at previous employers:

One additional question in all this is whether Kouwe’s use of other writers’ language was confined to his work for the Times. A representative at the New York Post, where Kouwe worked before joining the Times, declined to comment on whether that paper is conducting its own review of his articles. But it’s worth noting that, at the Post, Kouwe was writing only for the daily edition, while at the Times he has filed far more often as a contributor to the paper’s DealBook blog. As I noted last week, web-speed journalism raises exponentially the possibility of journalistic malpractice, even for the best-intentioned of practitioners.

Written by newscycle

February 16, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Kouwe, New York Times

Times Answers WSJ’s Complaint About Apparent Plagiarism

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The New York Times issued a correction yesterday acknowledging apparent plagiarism by reporter Zachery Kouwe of an article written by Wall Street Journal reporter Amir Efrati.

The Times also mentions that there are other possible incidents of plagiarism by Kouwe.

The issue came to light after Robert Thomson, editor of The Wall Street Journal, wrote Times executive editor Bill Keller that “a significant proportion of an article by Wall Street Journal reporter was used verbatim, or near verbatim, in a story by the Times’ Zachery Kouwe, both online and in print.” His letter was published in The Times on Friday.

Once sentence that was apparently lifted (Example 6 below) carries the same typo in the word “accounts.”

Here is the correction, and below is Thomson’s letter:

In a number of business articles in The Times over the past year, and in posts on the DealBook blog on, a Times reporter appears to have improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations.

The reporter, Zachery Kouwe, reused language from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and other sources without attribution or acknowledgment.

The Times was alerted to the problem by editors at The Wall Street Journal. They pointed out extensive similarities between a Journal article, first published on The Journal’s Web site around 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 5, and a DealBook post published two hours later, as well as a related article published in The Times on Feb. 6.

Those articles described an agreement on an asset freeze for members of Bernard L. Madoff’s family, in a lawsuit filed by a court-appointed trustee. In the Times article and the DealBook post, several passages are repeated almost exactly from the Journal article.

A subsequent search by The Times found other cases of extensive overlap between passages in Mr. Kouwe’s articles and other news organizations’. (The search did not turn up any indications that the articles were inaccurate.)

Copying language directly from other news organizations without providing attribution — even if the facts are independently verified — is a serious violation of Times policy and basic journalistic standards. It should not have occurred. The matter remains under investigation by The Times, which will take appropriate action consistent with our standards to protect the integrity of our journalism.

Here is Thomson’s letter:

Dear Mr. Keller,

I’m writing to alert you to a case of apparent plagiarism in the New York Times. As you’ll see from the text below, a significant proportion of an article by Wall Street Journal reporter Amir Efrati was used verbatim, or near verbatim, in a story by the Times’ Zachery Kouwe, both online and in print. There was no general news release about this particular story and the Journal’s coverage was informed by original reporting and a meticulous review of legal files related to the case of Mr. Bernard Madoff.

Mr. Efrati’s Wall Street Journal story, titled, “Madoff Sons, Brother, Niece Being Sued by Trustees for Victims” was published on Dow Jones Newswires at 12:25 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, and was published on shortly thereafter. At 2:31 p.m., Mr. Kouwe published a related, in fact, a remarkably related story. The examples below show the striking similarities.

Example 1:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

Mr. Picard said the family received about $141 million in the six months leading up to Mr. Madoff’s December 2008 arrest.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Mr. Picard said the family received about $141 million in the six months leading up to Mr. Madoff’s arrest in December 2008.

Example 2:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

The family members agreed not to transfer or sell property or assets valued at more than $1,000 or incur debts and obligations greater than $1,000 without approval of the trustee.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Under the agreement, the family members cannot transfer or sell property or assets valued at more than $1,000 or incur debts and obligations greater than $1,000 without approval of Mr. Picard.

Example 3:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

They are allowed to use credit cards for necessary living expenses.
The defendants also will provide the trustees with an accounting of their expenditures, the orders say.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

They are allowed to use credit cards for necessary living expenses.
The defendants also will provide the trustee with an accounting of their expenditures.

Example 4:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

Last year Mr. Madoff’s wife, Ruth, also agreed to an asset freeze as part of a separate trustee’s $45 million lawsuit against her.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Last year, Mr. Madoff’s wife, Ruth, also agreed to an asset freeze as part of a separate trustee’s $45 million lawsuit against her.

Example 5:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

According to the trustee’s lawsuit, son Andrew Madoff invested just under $1 million into his Madoff investment accounts yet withdrew $17 million through “brazenly fabricated transactions.”

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

According to the trustee’s lawsuit, Andrew Madoff placed just under $1 million into his Madoff investment accounts yet withdrew $17 million through “brazenly fabricated transactions” over the years.

Example 6:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

Peter Madoff invested $32,146 into his ccounts but redeemed more than
$16 million in similar fashion, the trustee said.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Peter Madoff invested $32,146 into his ccounts but redeemed more than
$16 million, the trustee claims.

The extensive use of such similar phrases, without any attribution, is extraordinary. This is not a case of involving a columnist with apparently perfect recall or a case of cryptomnesia, but one of fundamental journalistic integrity.

Clearly, we expect that The New York Times will run a correction and publically acknowledge the source of the published material– that source being The Wall Street Journal.


Robert Thomson

CC: Clark Hoyt, Public Editor
Larry Ingrassia, Business Editor
Philip Corbett, Deputy News Editor

Written by newscycle

February 15, 2010 at 11:34 pm

NYT Co. Reports 11.5 Percent Drop in Revenue in Fourth Quarter of 2009

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The New York Times Co. reported today that total revenues fell 11.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009. Normally that would be bad news, but when you compare it to the 16.9 percent drop in the third quarter, it loses its sting.

The full report can be found here. Excerpts include:

•Operating profit excluding depreciation, amortization, severance and the special items discussed below grew 10.9 percent to $157.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared with $142.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. On a GAAP basis, the Company had an operating profit of $136.0 million compared with $63.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.

•Operating costs excluding depreciation, amortization and severance declined 16.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 versus the fourth quarter of 2008. On a GAAP basis, the Company’s operating costs declined 15.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 versus the fourth quarter of 2008. For the year operating costs declined by approximately $475 million as a result of reductions in nearly all major expense categories.

•Diluted earnings per share from continuing operations excluding severance and special items were $.44 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared with $.36 per share in the same period of 2008. On a GAAP basis, the Company had diluted earnings per share from continuing operations of $.48 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared with $.19 per share in the fourth quarter of 2008.

•The Company has reduced its debt by over $290 million to $769 million from its balance at the end of 2008 of $1.059 billion. As of the end of the quarter, excluding $67 million in letters of credit, there were no outstanding borrowings under the Company’s $400 million revolving credit facility.

Total revenues were down 11.5 percent in the quarter, a significant improvement from the third quarter decline of 16.9 percent.

“We were pleased to see advertisers increase their rate of spending across our newspapers, Web sites and other platforms as advertising trends improved during the fourth quarter,” said Janet Robinson, president and CEO. “Our results also reflect our ability to restructure our cost base, introduce new products and innovations, leverage our brand strength and extend our reach to new audiences.

“In the fourth quarter total advertising revenues declined approximately 15 percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2008, as a 20 percent decrease in print advertising was offset in part by growth in digital advertising, which rose nearly 11 percent. While the advertising market remains challenging, the rate of decline across the major advertising categories – national, retail and classified – lessened as the quarter progressed.

“Circulation revenues increased 2 percent as we were able to command higher subscription and newsstand prices at The New York Times and The Boston Globe. This growth demonstrates the strong demand and loyalty for our high quality news and information in print, even as the content marketplace becomes increasingly digital.

“Once again we were encouraged by the strong performance at the About Group, whose fourth-quarter operating profit rose 80 percent to $18 million. The Group’s advertising revenues grew 23 percent on healthy gains in both cost-per-click and display advertising.

“We continued to capitalize on our ability to aggressively manage our expenses, as evidenced in an approximately 16 percent decline in operating costs. And we remain focused on securing strong performance on costs as we continue to reposition our Company for the evolving media marketplace.

“Looking ahead, visibility remains limited for advertising. In the first quarter of 2010, we expect the rate of decline for print advertising to continue to improve modestly from the fourth quarter of 2009, while digital advertising is expected to perform in line with the fourth-quarter level.

“Lastly, we have begun taking steps to enhance our digital strategy by planning to introduce a paid model for in 2011, to create an additional revenue stream while preserving our robust advertising business. We continue to embrace innovative new platforms and devices that provide rich experiences for our content.”

Written by newscycle

February 10, 2010 at 10:20 am

Posted in New York Times

New York Times Starts Layoffs of 26 Newsroom Employees

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Chris Rovzar, writing for, has the names of the first few people who have been given notices of being laid off at The New York Times:

It’s a “pretty grim atmosphere” over at the Times today, when layoffs are coming down from on high as the paper tries to reach the 100-person editorial cut it announced earlier this fall. While 74 staff members took the buyout, that left 26 to go. Layoffs have been ongoing all day, sources tell us, with the unlucky few people called upstairs out of the newsroom — where now people are “standing around in clumps and obviously talking about everything.” Here’s the list of names that we know so far who have gotten the ax, and their departments:

Eric Konigsberg — Culture
Sara Rimer — National
Christine Hauser — Metro
Josh Barbanel — Real Estate
Mitch Blumenthal — Continuous News
Kate Galbraith — Business
Allen Salkin — Styles
Monica Evanchik — Web

Barbanel is married to Times writer Anemona Hartocollis, who remains on staff. “They both came to work today with jobs, and one of them went home without one,” observed one writer. “Not that that should mean some kind of job security, but it’s kind of fucked up.” Salkin was another surprise, as he contributes a cover story almost every week to “Styles.” But the cut that’s sparking the most buzz is Konigsberg, who was brought to the paper to be a “Metro” editor and also wrote the “Age of Riches” series. He was later lured to the “Culture” section by Sam Sifton, who was recently made food critic for the paper. “Eric basically lost his rabbi,” said a co-worker. “He’s a completely elegant writer … People around here are in shock over it.”

Written by newscycle

December 16, 2009 at 11:32 pm

New York Times Guild Upheld on Seniority Rights in Ruling on Newsroom Layoffs

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An arbitrator on Monday upheld Times’ newsroom employees’ seniority rights, added an annual week of severance pay for employees properly laid off in inverse order of seniority, and sped up the challenge process for those laid off out of seniority in a ruling that resolved in the Guild’s favor most aspects of a multi-faceted dispute over job security, according to a press release posted by Jim Romenesko tonight:

The binding decision by Arbitrator Martin Scheinman, issued a day before Times management targets approximately 26 Newsroom employees for layoff, provides fresh clarity to a process that had been clouded by disputes since last year’s Newsroom layoffs.

After accepting the buyout applications of 74 News-side employees (60 Guild and 14 non-Guild) last week, Times management is expected on Tuesday to target additional Newsroom employees for involuntary layoffs to reach its goal of 100 job cuts. The numbers might change if people change their minds and revoke their buyout application.

The arbitrator’s ruling sustained the Guild’s view that seniority used to determine Newsroom employees’ vulnerability to layoffs must be measured by their service in the entire News Department. In last year’s round of job cuts, management had taken the position that seniority gets reset to zero each time an employee moves to a new desk.

Under the ruling, employees laid off in inverse order of seniority will receive three weeks per year of severance pay, instead of two weeks, the same rate as employees who are involuntarily laid off out of order, and will have to sign a release, as they currently do. Employees with the least amount of seniority are generally most vulnerable to layoffs, but management can pass over more senior employees if it determines that a less senior employee’s qualifications are “superior.”

Employees laid off out of seniority order who do not challenge their dismissals may receive their severance payments in a lump sum or in monthly installments, in exchange for signing a separation agreement and general release, Scheinman ruled.

Those who challenge their out-of-seniority layoffs will have their cases decided by Scheinman within 30 days of the Guild’s demand for a hearing, during which time they will receive no severance pay. If they prevail, they will be reinstated. If not, they may receive their severance pay only in monthly installments, in exchange for signing a separation agreement and general release.

The issue of whether the release negated rehire rights had been in dispute, and has now been resolved by the arbitrator in the following manner.

If The Times hires more than two employees in a classification from which Newsroom employees were laid off within the past 12 months, the Guild may challenge the layoff “as having been not in good faith, not bona fide, or a subterfuge,” Scheinman said.

“In the arbitration, the Guild would have to demonstrate hiring individuals rather than rehiring employees involuntarily terminated within the preceding 12 months was unreasonable,” he said. “The Times would have the responsibility to explain why it did not instead rehire employees involuntarily terminated within the preceding 12 months.”

If the Guild prevails in such a challenge, Scheinman said The Times would have to offer to rehire involuntarily a laid-off employee, even if they signed a general release.

“We are pleased that the arbitrator has upheld the most important aspects of our position,” said New York Guild president Bill O’Meara. “We also now have clarity on how layoffs are to be conducted and will have a swifter way of resolving future layoff disputes, which is of great benefit to Guild members,” he added.

Guild offers plan to avert loss of News Service jobs Responding to a management proposal to subcontract the News Service, the Guild last week offered a comprehensive package of cost savings aimed at keeping the operation and its 28 Guild-represented jobs in New York. Talks are continuing.

As reported, Times management notified the Guild a few weeks ago that it intends to subcontract the News Service to a Times Company-owned entity in Gainesville, Florida.

Workers there would be hired at about half the current rate of pay in effect here. That notification triggered a 60-day period during which the Guild can attempt to convince management not to go forward with its plans. The Guild proposal would cut costs by about 31 percent, saving the company nearly $900,000 a year.

Written by newscycle

December 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Commentators React to Dobbs’ Departure From CNN

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Here’s a short one-minute snippet of reactions to Lou Dobbs sudden departure from CNN. It was compiled by POLITICO. Most everyone was gracious to Dobbs with the exception of Keith Olbermann and The New York Times, who both showed their class once again.

In addition to his on-air comments, Olbermann had this advice for Dobbs’ soul on POLITICO’s Arena:

I can only say that I always wondered if his stance on immigrants, legal or otherwise, took a bigger toll on him than on the immigrants. This is, whether he or others will admit it, a Hispanic issue, and not only are Lou’s wife and kids Hispanic but the daughters are in the Horse Show game, which, after the restaurant industry, is the top employer of undocumented immigrants in this country – and Lou helps pay them. If that isn’t the ultimate hypocrisy, it must be the ultimate self-contradiction and very painful psychologically.

I worked with Lou as long ago as 1981 and I never heard any of this back then. He’s always been a bully and one of those put-up-your-dukes clowns, but I think the immigration stance was mostly opportunistic. The insincerity of the xenophobia would explain how he went from 2nd place to 4th.

As to what he should do next, his soul would benefit from a few years at Telemundo.

The New York Times used up valuable Editorial Page space to make this comment:

Lou Dobbs has left CNN, or maybe the other way around. Whichever it is, an old, odd, infuriating-to-many mismatch of sober network and strident host is over. CNN, for now anyway, changes back to something closer to the nonpartisan, straight-up news network it wants you to think of it as, different from its ideologically branded rivals Fox News and MSNBC. The real question is the effect the change will have on Mr. Dobbs.

Mr. Dobbs, once a pinstriped purveyor of financial news, has burrowed deep into the popular culture as a self-styled populist enraged by illegal immigration. When he resigned on the air Wednesday night, he made it clear that that aspect of his public persona is not going away. He listed immigration along with jobs, the middle class and war as among the issues urgently needing his kind of honest, straightforward examination.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “these issues are now defined in the public arena by partisanship and ideology rather than by rigorous, empirical thought and forthright analysis and discussion.”

Mr. Dobbs couldn’t have phrased a more apt criticism of himself. He calls himself Mr. Independent, but he is far closer in style and method to the right-wing ranters who mold the facts to shape the argument on television and on AM radio, where Mr. Dobbs still has a show. Mr. Dobbs’s CNN program has long been a nesting ground for untruths and conspiracy theories: fretting over a nonexistent, immigrant-borne leprosy epidemic; questioning President Obama’s citizenship; issuing dark warnings about the “North American Union,” a supposed plot to strangle United States sovereignty.

It’s hard to pinpoint how much damage these kinds of ideas have done to the national discussion of illegal immigration, but they have been corrosive. Solutions have withered as many politicians parrot the central myth that people desperate to seek new lives in the United States are an affliction to be feared, not an opportunity to be engaged, future Americans who could enrich the country as immigrants always have and will.

Now Mr. Dobbs has pledged to “engage in constructive problem solving.” Here is a problem to solve constructively: Illegal immigrants are, as Mr. Dobbs likes to say, decent, honest, hard-working people. They are exploited by greedy corporate interests. They are not about to deport themselves, and we aren’t about to deport them all.

It’s a problem to which Mr. Dobbs has never really offered an answer. Perhaps someday he will.

Written by newscycle

November 13, 2009 at 9:15 am

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