New York Times committee to review staff's outside work

New York Times committee to review staff's outside work
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Staff at The New York Times must now run outside work and projects past a committee to ensure it doesn’t conflict with or distract from their jobs, the newspaper confirmed on Tuesday.

"The committee will primarily review outside projects that have the potential to be competitive with our journalism and business, could conflict with or distract from your work or The Times, involve payment or could be covered in any other way by the policies defined by the Ethical Journalism Handbook," the Times said in a recent memo to staff obtained by The Hill.

Examples of such work include “book proposals and book deals, TV and film arrangements, e.g., consulting, paid contributor arrangements, producing, writing or rights inquiries,” according to the memo.

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The committee will also review audio projects, paid or unpaid newsletters and “any activity requiring you take a leave of absence from The Times,” it added.

The makeup of the committee, the number of staff covered by the rule and the author of the memo were redacted. 

The new committee won't review unpaid or low-paid outside activities or work that would probably not be competitive. However, reporters should still run them past the standards editor or other approvers, the memo stated. These activities include one-off speaking invitations, panels and conferences, freelance articles, short form interviews, part-time teaching gigs, contests and competitions and reporting partnerships.

A Times spokesperson said on Tuesday that the new policy is intended to speed up the internal process of reviewing the work.
 
"Today we announced a new process for news and opinion staff to follow when obtaining approvals to engage in outside projects including newsletters on other platforms," the spokesperson said via email.
 
"The process is intended to help manage the growing number of requests in a quicker more consistent fashion. Our policies on what is allowed - including those outlined in the ethical journalism handbookbusiness ethics policy and elsewhere - remain unchanged," the spokesperson added. "It’s important to note that just because we are asking journalists to bring projects to us for approval doesn't mean they aren't allowed, it just means they need to be considered fairly within the context of our policies."

The new directive comes only two weeks after New York Times columnist David Brooks resigned from a think-tank job after concerns of potential conflicts of interest were raised.

Brooks had drawn a salary from the Aspen Institute for his work since 2018 on Weave: The Social Fabric Project. That project was partly funded by Facebook and Brooks mentioned both Facebook and Weave in his Times columns without disclosing his connections. Brooks said his work for Weave did not influence his journalism.