Why the New York Times doesn’t let their journalists blog.

Really good story over at E&P about how big media companies are handling their journalists having blogs.

Interestingly it is the New York Times that has the most stringent policy about journos moonlighting as bloggers. It seems like half their position is they are worried about fallout these blogs might cause since they are not edited or controlled in anyway, while the second piece of their position seems to be they see blogs are a business opportunity (the Deal Book email newsletter they released last year is essentially a blog).

Frankly, knowing many Times reporters and having inside insight into their politics and positions, I think it would be an asset for the public to know these positions. Having a blog would make it very clear where a writer stood on issues, as a result it would be easier for readers to put their stories into context.

Heck, if each person at the Times was forced to do a blog that would act as safeguard against bias (i.e. you read someone’s personal opinion on the war at their website then read their coverage of it)! I can’t figure out why the New York Times wouldn’t want this added transparency.

From E&P Story: That’s one reason that The New York Times tightly controls personal blogs by its journalists. Of the companies I surveyed for this report, the Times was the most restrictive, by far. NYTimes.com Editor-in-Chief Len Apcar puts it bluntly: “I don’t like the concept of the personal blog in terms of The New York Times.”

Blogs are a fine medium, says Apcar, and he’s been introducing staff-written blogs to NYTimes.com in recent months and hints that more experiments are to come. But in terms of a staff member writing a personal blog: forget it, for the most part.

A Times reporter wanting to write a personal blog on bee-keeping might be allowed to do it, but the paper’s policy is that even such an innocuous blog must be approved by newsroom management. The same goes for a family blog. A Times correspondent in Iraq might introduce topics or opinions on his family blog that if disseminated widely always a possibility online could call a reporter’s objectivity and credibility into question.

“We’re The New York Times,” says Apcar. “With our leadership position in the industry comes a burden of complete transparency.” When the Times makes a mistake, lots of people write about it, so the company tries to avoid putting itself in a position of potential conflict. “What makes us uncomfortable is getting into a situation where people erroneously divine motives for our coverage,” he says something possible when a reporter speaks too freely on a personal blog and those words inadvertently reach a wider audience.

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