The New York Times has sent a memo out to its freelancers reminding them of the paper’s ethics policies. And wow, either the Times continues to think very, (very) highly of itself or, the state of the media industry is such they know they can get away with anything. Or both. Actually, I suspect it’s both.
Basically what the memo says is that regardless of the fact Times is only paying you to be a freelancer (meaning, no benefits!) they expect you to conduct yourselves at all times as if you are full-time employees.
The ethics rules outline specific requirements while you are on assignment for The Times. But because of The Times’s high profile, our freelance contributors are often viewed as “Times writers” even when they are not specifically working for us. Companies, organizations and other potential subjects and sources may believe that favors or special treatment for you – whether you are on assignment or not – will help them gain favorable treatment in The Times.
Note that our rules on free travel and other free or discounted products and services are stricter than those of many publications. Even if such a benefit is not directly connected to a Times assignment, it can create an appearance that undermines the credibility of The Times or its contributors.
Once you sign on to the Times you are theirs for life (or the freelancer equivalent, anyway). Also, they mean business. Of course, here’s the thing about freelancing: if this is how you are making a living you are pretty much willing to sign on to anything, especially if it gets you some clips in the Times.
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