Print Friendly Version Convert to PDF Convert to RTF
October 31, 2011

PRSA Supports Effort to Increase Transparency in New York Times Op-Ed Page

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) advocated for increased transparency among opinion editorial (op-ed) writers regarding the motivating factors and financial interests that influence their writing in a published online comment in The New York Times Public Editor’s Oct. 30, 2011, column. The comment is one of three highlighted by New York Times editors as being "interesting and thoughtful" and "represent[ing] a range of views."
The column detailed a campaign led by the Checks and Balances Project, a consumer watchdog group, to compel publications to disclose the “financial conflicts of interest that their op-ed contributors may have at the time their piece is published.” PRSA voiced support for the effort, based on the “Conflicts of Interest” clause of the Society’s Code of Ethics.
The following text comprises PRSA’s full response to the column, as published at
The issue of authorial transparency and disclosure of motivating interests by opinion writers is, indeed, an important one for any independent publication to consider.

As an organization that espouses ethical and transparent communications practices by companies and individuals speaking on behalf of causes or the organizations they represent, we support the notion of increased disclosure by opinion writers as to their affiliations, motivations and potential conflicts of interest.

The Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics has a “Conflicts of Interest” clause, which states, in part, that public relations professionals and those speaking on behalf of organizations or causes should “Disclose promptly any existing or potential conflict of interest to affected clients or organizations.” The Code also states that these individuals should “Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.”

On that basis, we hope editors at The Times will seriously consider your proposed changes for requiring increased transparency of its opinion writers as to their affiliations, motivations and interests represented.

However your suggestion that The Times should require “contributors to provide a document listing all current paid positions, and publish a link to the document” seems cumbersome and unnecessary, not to mention difficult to maintain and control.

Ultimately, for organizations and individuals who wish to advocate a cause or idea, it is important that they be transparent in disclosing their motivations and funding. And it is equally important that The New York Times, and indeed, any publication, provides that information in a transparent and convenient manner so that readers may better discern the true intent of an opinion writer and make their own informed decisions.

Keith Trivitt
Associate Director
Public Relations Society of America

< back

You must be logged in to view this item.

This area is reserved for members of the news media. If you qualify, please update your user profile and check the box marked "Check here to register as an accredited member of the news media". Please include any notes in the "Supporting information for media credentials" box. We will notify you of your status via e-mail in one business day.