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.
Public Relations Society of America