Friday, 7 December 2007

Conflict of Interest?

Avoiding conflicts of interest between the business and editorial sides of the International Herald Tribune has long been a vital, highly respected mantra at both the NYT and the IHT.

I haven't yet read the Executive Editor of the IHT's book, The Genius of America, written by Mr. Oreskes and Eric Lane, but as an IHT reader I certainly know all about it.

Firstly, if memory serves me, their was a recent opinion piece which referred to, and thereby promoted his book, and then earlier this week the book was reviewed by Robert. A Dahl.

The review was an interesting one, it certainly made me want to buy the book; but the question remains whether the book of an IHT editor or journalist getting significant play within the pages of the IHT constitutes a conflict of interest?

Regrettably, I would say yes, it does.

Just as a footnote to this, a senior ex-editor of the IHT read a book of mine, A Place in My Country, with a view to perhaps reviewing it. Despite kind words about the book, he said he would have to pass on submitting a review of the book to the IHT, because of the possibility of a 'perceived conflict of interest' - that is to say, he knows me personally, I used to work for the IHT and my book getting review coverage might undermine the credibility of the books section in terms of which books get reviewed and which don't.

If my tenuous link to the IHT could be seen by an experienced editor as having the potential for a conflict of interest, then what would he have to say about the editor responsible for the book reviews publishing a large review about her immediate superior's book? And a very positive one at that.

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