Thursday, May 10, 2012

An NYT Editor Regrets
Donating to Obama Reelection Campaign


Last weekend, I was checking Federal Election Commission records for any new donations by people in the media business and two donations turned up from editors at the New York Times. The first was from John T. Stickney, senior editor for the NYT Syndicate which supplies content to thousands of news outlets, gave $300 in December to the Obama for America campaign.

I asked NYT spokesperson Eileen Murphy about the donation and whether it violated the paper's ethical guidelines. She replied:

John Stickney is employed as a senior editor of The New York Times Syndicate, which is part of The New York Times Company.  And yes, he has confirmed that he made this donation in December. While John is not a Times newsroom employee, he is in fact bound by the corporate policy that requires that any employee involved in the planning, creation or oversight of news and editorial content not give money to any political candidate or election cause.  In this case he made this donation without direct knowledge of that policy.  He is now aware of the policy and sincerely regrets having made the donation. 
The second donation was from Sally J. Singer, editor of T, the NYT's fashion and style magazine that does not cover politics or campaign. FEC files show she gave $500 to Obama's campaign in January. I asked spokesperson Murphy about this and whether the paper would send a reminder to all employees subject to the guidelines, that contributions are not allowed. Murphy said:  

Sally Singer’s donation was to a fashion industry event.  When she realized that the event was a fund raiser for the Obama re-election campaign, she asked for and had her money returned.  She was warned, however, that since they had already filed with the FEC, the donation would be reflected for at least one cycle. We do take steps to try to ensure that all Times journalists, including those who are separate from the newsroom, are aware of our guidelines, and we will continue to do so.  

I hope, as someone who expects the NYT to maintain the highest standards of journalistic impartiality and avoid even a hint of bias in its coverage, that a memo is circulated reminding editorial staff of rule number 90 of the guidelines, which states:  

Staff members may not themselves give money to any political candidate or election cause or raise money for one. Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributions, any political giving by a staff member would risk feeding a false impression that we are taking sides.

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6 comments:

Rocketeer said...

Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributions, any political giving by a staff member would risk feeding a false impression that we are taking sides.

Does "feeding a false impression" mean "confirming" in their language? Context indicates that it must.

Kevin said...

FALSE impression?

CalisseTabarnac said...

We wouldn't want anybody to think that the NYT is "taking sides", would we?

Harris Abrams said...

I owe you an apology. I actually thought you made up that bit about "a false impression that we are taking sides," until I clicked through. Not too self-aware, are they?

Anonymous said...

Funny that public access to information via the internet is cited as a reason to avoid political donations, rather than simply the unethical nature of it. I seem to recall someone saying that "Your character is the way you behave when you think nobody is looking". I guess we know a little more about the character of the leadership of the NYT now.

Anonymous said...

I think he has no choice but to publicly donate equal amount to Romney.