New York Times ethics cop Phil Corbett just sent out the following memo to the newsroom, reminding them about the paper's rules for paid speaking engagements. (Thomas Friedman, among others, has had trouble with this in the past.) An NYT source says "they don't send these reminders out unless someone breaks the rules or screws up." So who was it? Email me if you know.

Update: One likely candidate would be NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner, outed in CJR last month for his paid speaking arrangement with an Israeli PR firm. Though that would be quite a delayed memo-reaction.

Update 2: NYT spokesperson Eileen Murphy says, "This was not about any rule breakers, just a routine semi-regular reminder of an important policy."

Date: Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 9:17 AM
Subject: From Phil Corbett: A Reminder on Speaking Engagements
To: !NYHQ-newsroom

To the Staff:

We recognize that speaking engagements and other public appearances by Times journalists can be valuable for them and for The Times. But we have rules to guard against potential conflicts and to protect our reputation for impartiality.

A few reminders about those guidelines:

— Any newsroom staffer who earns more than $5,000 from speaking engagements in a year is required to file an itemized accounting with Bill Schmidt's office by the following Jan. 31.

— Any single engagement with a fee of $5,000 or more must be approved by me or Bill in advance, regardless of the venue.

— In general, staffers are permitted to accept speaking fees and expenses only from educational institutions and from nonprofit organizations for which lobbying and political activity are not a major focus. Speaking fees are generally not allowed from companies, lobbying groups or other sources that might raise questions about our impartiality.

— Even if an engagement does not involve a fee, we should avoid situations that would create an appearance of favoritism or suggest too close a relationship between a Times journalist and the people or institutions we cover.

There are detailed guidelines in our Ethical Journalism handbook (pdf), and you should be familiar with them. But there are often gray areas, so if you have any doubts or questions, please consult me.



[Photo: AP]