In response to the revelation last month that Ragan Communications was selling tickets to a "video rebroadcast" of David Pogue's advice for how PR professionals can pitch effectively to journalists, the celebrated New York Times technology columnist will now present all of his speaking offers from his agent to his editor at the Times, according to a blog post by Arthur S. Brisbane, the paper's public editor.
Pogue also told Brisbane in an email that he will not "do any more speaking for Ragan or any PR-related event or organization."
On June 27, Ragan's PR Daily sent an email advertising "Pitch me, Baby!" -- a "live virtual event" featuring pre-recorded video of Pogue sharing "what you should NEVER do when pitching a reporter" and "Pogue's five 'Pitch pet peeves,'" among other tips. Tickets to the event were offered for $159 and Pogue was compensated for the event.
The news created controversy in journalism circles, with commentators wondering how the Times, known for its strict ethical guidelines, would handle the situation.
Brisbane noted in his post that the Times' ethics policy states that journalists "should not take part in public relations workshops that charge admission or imply privileged access to the press..."
Brisbane, who saw the video, wrote that Pogue's "speech flagrantly violates the prohibition against giving advice at paid P.R. conferences."
Brisbane also noted, however, that Pogue is a freelancer, so he's only held to those standards when working for the Times. Nevertheless, he wrote, "Times readers deserve to be assured that journalists don't get too cozy with the P.R. professionals who strive to influence coverage. A virtual army of publicists, media specialists and others stands ready every day to infiltrate the news with stories that help their employers."
This is not the first time the technology reporter has faced criticism over conflicts of interest. In September 2009, Clark Hoyt, the public editor who preceded Brisbane, wrote a lengthy column in the Times that addressed Pogue's activities outside of his work at the paper. In addition to his television and radio contracts, Pogue created the Missing Manual series and has authored books about the iPhone, Windows and Twitter, among many other products he's reviewed in the Times. In the column, Hoyt announced that moving forward, Pogue will disclose in his column if he is writing a book about a product he is reviewing.
In a recent profile, The New York Observer pointed out that Pogue has also been criticized for making paid speeches at events for Raytheon Company and the Consumer Electronics Association.
Not wholly unrelated, The Daily Beast reported in May that Pogue is dating Nicki Dugan, a PR executive in Silicon Valley, which raises its own conflict of interest questions. Brisbane did not address that specifically in his post.
Pogue made headlines earlier this year when it was reported that he and his wife, Jennifer, were being charged in a domestic dispute. She said on Tuesday that he assaulted her with an iPhone, although both parties have dropped charges.
What do you think? Do Pogue's conflicts of interest make you read his columns differently? Let us know in the comments.
Disclosure: The author of this post was a reporting intern at The New York Times in 2010. His work appeared on The Local East Village, a blog that's a collaboration between the Times and New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.