Thursday, October 29, 2009

Former "Critical Shopper" Columnist Mike Albo Tells NYTPicker That NYT Standards Department Fired Him Via Email. Is That Standard?

Mike Albo, the "Critical Shopper" columnist fired by the NYT last week for taking a Jamaica junket paid for by JetBlue and Thrillist, has told The NYTPicker that "no face to face discussion took place" with NYT editors before his dismissal.

"The decision came from the NYT Standards department on Friday, October 23 in the form of a letter sent to me by email," Albo said. "No face to face discussion took place prior between any NYT editors and myself about the episode."

Albo, who described himself as "not a true, regular travel writer (freelance or contributing) for the NYT," said he was "taken back a tad" by the NYT's decision.

"The letter also cited that a trip sponsor, H&M, was a direct conflict given my duties reporting on retail and consumer products," Albo said. "H&M’s presence at this trip was a water bottle in the gift bag. I left it in the hotel room."

Here's Albo's blow-by-blow of how it went down -- some of it, anyway:

The reporter for DailyFinance contacted me and the Times about his story, on 10/20. My editor, and then the Standards department of the NYT emailed me soon after that day. I sent them the Thrillist JetMystery questionnaire I filled out out before going on the trip in which I made clear to the organizers of the Thrillist trip that I had no intentions to cover it for the NYT.

In this questionnaire, when asked what publication/media outlet I represent, I listed a few magazines I would consider pitching, promising nothing up front. They also requested in the same questionnaire a few words on what my angle would be, and I wrote: “I am interested in seeing how brands can appeal to targeted demographics, and how this kind of effort can supplant blanket advertising.”

That, apparently, was not the correct answer.

When asked about his future plans, Albo told us:

I will miss writing for the Times. The editors there are fantastic, as you can imagine. But, moving on, I am really looking forward to finding new outlets to discuss our strange commercial culture. I love writing about how things are sold to us, and how products and brands try to work their way into our lives in intimate ways. And that is really what fascinated me about that trip to Jamaica. It certainly wasn’t the country, which is a terrifying place for gays and lesbians. I don’t know exactly what I am going to do for money right now, but I am performing with my comedy outift, Unitard, in November.
More from Albo on his post-NYT plans:

I am working on another novel (which is by strange coincidence about a freelance writer who barely makes money and always feels compromised)...I’m working on turning The Underminer (my second book) into a TV show....But most exciting is...I'm shopping around a show about two kooky freelance fashion writers who contribute to a big newspaper and get into all kinds of crazy trouble. (that last one is a joke. Sort of.)

EARLIER: David Pogue Wins A Free Trip To Disney World -- And Immunity From NYT Freelance Policy. Why Not Give Mike Albo A Break, Too? October 22, 2009


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

that was good. he seems solid and the ny times seem like assholes.