The New York Times has had a hell of a time in the last six months trying to determine just exactly how much freedom to allot to their freelance (or non-staff) writers. And the latest public editor column makes it clear that the newspaper is not interested in bending its rigid ethics rules for anyone.
A few months ago, there was a controversy surrounding Mike Albo, a Times freelancer who went on a Thrillist junket to Jamaica and, even though he didn’t write about it for the Times, was fired for accepting the free trip. Then there was Mary Tripsas who had her flight (and room and board) paid for by 3M as she checked out the company’s innovation center. She later wrote about it in her New York Times column “Prototype” and gave it glowing reviews. She has been asked to leave the Times.
And apparently there is a third, more recent case of Joshua Robinson,
who sought free trips from airlines pitched stories to airline magazines in exchange for airline tickets, while describing himself as a Times reporter even though he wasn’t working on a project for the paper. (Editor’s Note: To be fair, what freelancer wouldn’t boast about those Times clips on his resume?)
So why, Times public editor Clark Hoyt asked, should these writers be punished? Why should freelancers be held to the same ethical standards as the people who get health insurance, benefits and secure employment? After all, is it worth writing for a prestigious institution if there are no perks to be had?