-- NYT Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism
This morning, NYT published its third puff piece in five months on Foursquare, the social-networking phenomenon -- singing its praises yet again, while again forgetting to mention that the paper has been doing business with the company.
In February, the NYT's Jenna Wortham -- who wrote two of the NYT's three feature-length love sonnets directed at Foursquare -- buried the news of her paper's business partnership with Foursquare in Bits Blog entry.
Wortham reported on the blog on Febuary 9 (in an "update" to the entry, posted at 12:12 a.m.) that the Foursquare was "forging partnerships" with various media companies, including the NYT. The partnership debuted at the Winter Olympics, with Foursquare entertainment suggestions culled from the NYT's coverage -- with frequent Foursquare users earning NYT Olympics "badges."
“Going forward,” Stacy Green, public relations manager for The New York Times Company, told Wortham, ”we are looking into other ways we can work with Foursquare in New York and other markets to integrate our strong travel and entertainment content.”Today's Foursquare homily comes yet again from Wortham, who only last October wrote a profile of the startup for the NYT's business section that made essentially the identical point to today's feature:
From today's piece, on the front page of the business section:
But now there is a different approach, one that is being popularized by Foursquare.
After firing up the Foursquare application on their phones, users see a list of nearby bars, restaurants and other places, select their location and “check in,” sending an alert to friends using the service.This model, which may be more attractive than tracking because it gives people more choice in revealing their locations, is gathering speed in the Internet industry.
From Wortham's October 18 front-page Business Day feature:
For them, a fast-growing social networking service called Foursquare is becoming the tool of choice. A combination of friend-finder, city guide and competitive bar game, Foursquare lets users “check in” with a cellphone at a bar, restaurant or art gallery. That alerts their friends to their current location so they can drop by and say hello.
And only three weeks ago -- ten days after the NYT-Foursquare deal was announced -- metro columnist Susan Dominus delivered a paean to the service in her column, declaring:
In your own neighborhood, it’s a simple utility; farther than home, it seems to crack doors open that might otherwise be passed by, giving personality and accessibility to the surrounding blocks. To walk through the city eyeing your Foursquare tips is to realize just how little of it you ordinarily see.
Although it’s a tool of the young and hip, Foursquare also provides old-fashioned marketing opportunities for the businesses that tap into it. Show up more often than anyone at your favorite bar, checking into Foursquare each time, and suddenly you’re crowned “mayor,” maybe you’ll get a discount.
To Dominus's credit, at least her column mentioned parenthetically that the NYT "is among the companies that are working with Foursquare."
Today's NYT story should have done the same. The failure to disclose demonstrates yet another example of the blurred line between the NYT's business and editorial priorities, and a violation of the ethics rules that govern the paper's coverage -- whenever it's convenient, that is.