‘New York Times’ Memo: Staff ‘Lax’ on Speaking Fee Accounting

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By: Joe Strupp

Editors at The New York Times issued a memo reminding those who make big money on speaking fees to file reports on such payments, and seek approval before accepting any that top $5,000.

The memo, first made public by Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey, is from Executive Editor Bill Keller and Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal. It stated: “we have all become lax in complying with the parts of the ethics guidelines that require annual accounting of income from speaking engagements.”

Apparently, Times staffers must account for speaking fees that total $5,000 per year and must “consult with” a specific editor before accepting any single speaking fee of $5,000 or more. Staffers must also provide in advance a list of promotional events tied to books they have written.

The entire memo is posted below:

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A note from Bill Keller and Andy Rosenthal

To the staffs of the News and Editorial departments

We have been reviewing the newspaper’s policy on outside speaking engagements. We believe that you are all adhering to the spirit of the guidelines, both for speaking on behalf of the Times and to promote books.

But we have all become lax in complying with the parts of the ethics guidelines that require annual accounting of income from speaking engagements.

Briefly, you are required to file by Jan. 31 of each year an itemized accounting of all income over $5,000 that you earned in the previous year from speaking engagements.

So, we’re asking anyone who earned more than $5,000 from speaking engagements in 2008 to file an itemized accounting with the appropriate person by June 15. Your accounts for 2009 are due on Jan. 31, 2010, and so on.

If you are offered a single speaking fee over $5,000 for an appearance based on your work as a Times staffer, you must consult before accepting. (In the newsroom, that’s with Craig Whitney or Bill Schmidt; in the editorial department, that’s with Carla Robbins for board members and Andy Rosenthal for columnists).

We will make sure that an annual reminder is sent around to the entire staff.

In the Newsroom, the annual accounts go to Bill Schmidt. In the Editorial department, they go to Carla Robbins.

Also, please remember that if you are promoting a book, you are required to submit in advance a list of proposed promotional events to your immediate supervisor.

Please review these and all the other guidelines relating to outside speaking engagements in Ethical Journalism.

One of the most important is: if you have any doubts, just ask.

Thanks very much,

Bill and Andy

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