The Sword of Damocles hangs no more for David Pogue. The New York Times technology columnist has yet again eluded the bony grasp of editorial punishment in the wake of a “flagrant” violation of the New York Times’ editorial standards.
To refresh your memory, Mr. Pogue—easily one of the most widely-read technology columnists in the country, and a major asset to the Times—was recently found to have spoken at a seminar for communications professionals, something strictly against the New York Times standards.
This is not the first time his compliance with the Times‘ standards or ethics have been called into question.
- June 2009: David Pogue takes a paid speaking gig in California for an industry trade group, theConsumer Electronics Association’s “CEO Summit.” He was reprimanded by way of—per the Times—being “reminded of the policy provisions barring acceptance of speaking fees or travel expenses from all but educational or other non-profit organizations that do not have lobbying or political activity as a major focus.”
- August 2009: David Pogue writes a glowing review of Apple operating system Snow Leopard in the Times. He has also written a book about the operating system, and thus, plainly stood to profit from his own review.
- September 2009: David Pogue’s many conflicts merit their own column from the New York Times ombudsman, Clark Hoyt (“He Works For the Times, Too“) in which three separate journalism ethicsists conclude unanimously that Mr. Pogue’s work outside the Times often stands in strict ethical opposition to the paper. No punishment is doled out; a disclosure is added to his blog. Mr. Pogue’s response is that he is “not a reporter.“
- October 2009: David Pogue takes a speaking fee from defense contractor Raytheon and a trip to Disney World. As previously mentioned, Times standards prohibit staffers for taking fees from anyone other than non-profits.
- May 2011: It’s revealed that David Pogue is dating PR professional Nikki Dugan; the firm she works for represents a number of companies David Pogue has written about. Times technology editor Damon Darlin explains that there were no conflicts; Mr. Pogue told him about the relationship in December, when it started, and that all pitches from Ms. Dugan’s company will go through Mr. Darlin from that point forward. (A source tells the Observer that the relationship between Mr. Pogue and Ms. Dugan started as early as April 2010.)
- June 2011: It’s revealed that Mr. Pogue took another speaking engagement, this time to a group of communications professionals.
Given the seriousness with which the Times takes their standards policy—and given the precedent for violations of it: zero-tolerance, whether you understand the rules or not—one would think Mr. Pogue’s status with the Times would be called into question.
Not so much. The decision, as handed down for delivery by Arthur Brisbane, the Times‘ Public Editor:
[An] inquiry into it has led to a Times internal review and, as a consequence, Pogue is barred from making any more speeches like this one to public relations professionals.
…the speech flagrantly violates the prohibition against giving advice at paid P.R. conferences.
But unlike less lucky (or popular) Times staffers, David Pogue will not be fired, and will only have a fraction of his supplementary income hedged by the Times. If not entirely predictable, it’s a lucky break: Mr. Pogue still has issues closer to the chest to concern himself with. Heavy hangs the head onwhich the crown of technology-writing for all of geekdom hangs, or something along those lines.
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