New York Times writer Nick Bilton used to cover technology. He wrote about the "internal struggles" at Twitter. He wrote articles challenging the FAA so people could use their phones on planes. He wrote about the Apple iWatch. Important stuff. Sure. Why not. Last month, he became a columnist for the paper's Styles section. He has quickly distinguished himself, both among the paper's most-emailed columnists, and also as a worse columnist than even Frank Bruni.
So here’s a question for the Paper of Record: Can a reporter ethically accept a gift from a company he covers if the reporter gives it to a family member, or a friend? We ask because superstar tech reporter Nick Bilton admitted to doing so—or at least attempting to—on last week’s episode of Leo Laporte’s "This Week in Tech" podcast. Here’s what Bilton said:
It's 2012 and The Federal Aviation Administration still doesn't allow electronic devices to be used during takeoff and landing. Of course, phones — the F.A.A.'s worst nightmare ever, aren't allowed to be used even when you're at the gate and your plane's not moving. Just ask Alec Baldwin about that. This is the dumbest rule ever.
Occupy business class! Or at least fill out an angry comment card before politely relinquishing your seat, in business class! Or, failing that, fill out an online presidential petition, at a time mutually convenient to the airline and yourself! Because gadget nerds are done turning off their iPads, iPhones, Kindles and BlackBerries on airplanes.
For TechCrunch's MG Siegler, temptation came from the clubby world of venture capital. For the New York Times' Nick Bilton, the lure was in the blindingly lit studios of a TV network. The writers made different choices—one took the money, the other turned it down—but the scope of their offers alone is the sign of a world gone mad.