The Free Press

When do gifts to journalists turn into a conflict of interest? When a New York Times writer gets his computer repaired.

Yet Pogue seems to genuinely believe that his arrangement with DriveSavers was standard practice.

"It was a review, not a 'comp deal,'" Pogue insisted, when I told him that a DriveSavers sales representative had informed me that the company had "comped" him free service.

And Lydia Chavez, who teaches ethics at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, said she thought Pogue had tried to do the right thing by telling his editors about his arrangement with DriveSavers. "He's obviously thorough and conscientious," said Chavez, a former New York Times reporter, after I showed her Pogue's explanation. "David makes it pretty clear that the Times policy on this is that he can review any service for free. It does, however, get dicey when he actually needs that service and can personally gain from it."

Dicey indeed. But thorough and conscientious? How could Times writers, both current and past, be unaware of the paper's anti-swag policy?

"I think the question is not whether they have rules, but rather whether the rules are being enforced," NPR's Dvorkin says.

Dvorkin may have got that about right.

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