Extreme ethical hygiene: New York Times opinion columnist Joe Nocera isn't always entitled to his opinion.
Extreme ethical hygiene: New York Times opinion columnist Joe Nocera isn't always entitled to his opinion.
Media criticism.
Oct. 13 2010 6:11 PM

Extreme Ethical Hygiene at the New York Times

Times opinion columnist Joe Nocera isn't always entitled to his opinion.

(Continued from Page 1)

If I worked under Times rules, I would probably stop writing about the Washington Post because last week, while I was on vacation, my wife returned to work there as an editor. You know and I know that I'm totally willing to write something sufficiently incendiary about the Post that might get her (or me!) fired by a potentially retaliatory moron in the Washington Post Co. chain of command. But that probably doesn't matter to the ethics keepers. In their world, they'd prefer it if she apply for a job at every newspaper, magazine, and Web site in the Washington not owned by the Post Co., thereby enlarging my appearance-of-conflict-of-interest zone to dozens of prospective employers. They'd be happier if I needed a spreadsheet to calculate all my conflicts.

Lucky for me, a pre-existing appearance of conflict of interest exists for me that trivializes any conflict created by my wife. As I've been noting in a permanent disclaimer at the bottom of this column for years, I already work for the Washington Post Co. I've already written nasty and nice things about the paper and its properties. I may be conflicted up the wing-wang, but for the time being, my conflicts are moot.

But enough about me. What I'd like the ethicists behind the Times Editors' Note to explain to me is whether or not the Nocera column as published is a credible work of opinion journalism. If it's not, please say so. If it is, please shut up.


The best piece ever written about the appearance of conflict of interest was written by Michael Kinsley and appeared in the April 1984 issue of the Washington Monthly. Kinsley also reprinted it in his 1987 book Curse of the Giant Muffins and Other Washington Maladies. I command the Monthly to put this piece online immediately or suffer my highly unethical retaliation. Have an unethical idea? Send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. Monitor my Twitter for my compensation demands. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)


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Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Politico@gmail.com.

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