About 50 journalists and educators have written The New York Times
to ask that it more clearly note the conflicts of interest for its opinion-editorial contributors.
Their letter to the public editor does not suggest that the Times is alone in the matter, but that as the "paper of record" it can lead the way in identifying the conflicts its contributors have as they write for the organization.
In this instance they have identified Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, as an example of insufficient disclosure. Rather than note that his institute receives funds from the energy sector, the Times refers to him as a senior fellow or an energy expert.
The Times does ask its freelance contributors to answer a questionnaire on their backgrounds
Craig Silverman, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, suggested that the group behind the letter has its own possible conflicts to declare. Nevertheless, he believes that
there are reasonable limits on the amount of declarations practical in media and that it is not always possible to explain every detail of one's background. Still, he does call for some standardized approach.
"We should move to standardize the way contributors are asked to disclose potential conflicts of interest and relevant related information," he wrote. "Once that information is provided, we should meet a higher standard of disclosing it to the public."