Letter To The New York Times
October 6, 2011
Arthur Brisbane, Public Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Dear NY Times Public Editor Arthur S. Brisbane:
We are writing to call to your attention a growing problem in American journalism
and to ask your support to help stop it.
There is a disturbing trend of special interests surreptitiously funding “experts” to push industry talking points in the nation’s major media outlets. When these expert commentaries appear in media outlets, their special interest ties go unreported.
Let us give you an example of how this happens. Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, which has received millions of dollars in funding from the fossil fuel tied organizations including ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. Masquerading as an unbiased expert, Mr. Bryce writes opinion pieces and provides commentaries that often promote fossil fuels and dismiss renewable energy. His commentary has been featured recently in the New York Times, CNN and NPR.
Unfortunately, when media outlets quote or publish op-eds from “bought and biased” pundits, the conflict of interest goes unmentioned. Instead, Mr. Bryce and others are simply identified as a “senior fellow” or an “energy expert.” As a result, these pundits mislead media outlets and leave readers in the dark about their true ties. Surely, these outlets can’t expect their readers to know about these connections.
We are asking the New York Times to lead the industry and set the nation’s standard by disclosing financial conflicts of interest that their op-ed contributors may have at the time their piece is published. By simply asking a few standard disclosure questions, the New York Times can avoid any confusion and ensure better transparency.
We believe that pundits like Mr. Bryce have the right to share their views, but we believe media outlets have the responsibility to inform their readers of opinion writers’ true ties and conflicts of interest.
We fully support this effort and believe this is necessary to ensure that readers are informed when reading the opinion pages.
As our nation’s paper of record, we hope the New York Times will set the standard by revealing the true ties of these “experts” and ensuring that their readers get the whole story.
Abby Henkel, Society of Professional Journalists
Abby Kleckler, Society of Professional Journalists
Alessi Johnson, Radio Television Digital News Association
Allison Shea, reporter, Norwich Bulletin
Andrea Whatcott, content editor, Deseret News
Andrew Shenkel, former reporter, KCWY
Ashley Henny, North Florida Herald
Barbara Reed, Rutgers University
Brenda Keegan, retired
Brian Donegan, assistant editor, Triple Threat TV
Caleb Tellez, multimedia journalist
Cara Shenkel, former reporter, Loveland Reporter Herald
Christine Cakulo, photojournalist
David Cohn, founder Spot.us, professor at UC Berkeley
Deshundra Jefferson, KTXL Fox 40
Donna Guidry, L'acadien
Ed Perry, owner, WATD FM
Evan Peters, editor
Gene D'Garaa, reporter
Gideon Grudo, University Press
Graham Jesmer, former reporter, Renewable Energy World
Jane Singer, University of Iowa
January Jones, news director, WFHB
Jeff Kiel, former publisher, San Jose Mercury-News
Jennifer Sullivan, journalist
Jordan Carney, reporter
Jordan Gribble, news editor, The Contraband
Kathryn Lynch-Morin, reporter, the Saginaw News
Kevin Washington, St. Petersburg Times
Kevin Ashley, former traffic manager, Univision
Kirby Franze, photojournalist
Krystal Nimigian, Society of Professional Journalists
Lauren Evans, Radio Television Digital News Association
Maggie Calmes, The Lens NOLA
Margaret Randazzo, former publisher, Modesto Bee
Marisa Beahm, former business reporter, Loveland Daily Reporter Herald
Michele Ashley, former producer, NBC 11
Michelle Gao, Asian American Journalists Association
Paul Bush, professor, Franklin Pierce University
Paul Sherno, Agence France Presse
Rosalee Getterman, Society of Professional Journalists
Sammy Mack, Miami Herald/HealthyState Collaborative
Sandy Frost, investigative journalist
Steve Buttry, director of Community Engagement & Social Media, Journal Register Co.
Steve Outing, University of Colorado Boulder, Digital News Test Kitchen
T'erica French, Radio Television Digital News Association
Tabitha Hurley, Society of Professional Journalists
Tanara Bowie, St. Petersburg Times
Trent Brown, photographer
Vanecia Carswell, University of Florida
Vinti Singh, reporter, Connecticut Post
Wayne Stafford, Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation
Yolanda Vazquez, Maryland Public TV