Daily Archives: September 8, 2014

A Raleigh journalist sends the emails below – he uses the subject line, “The N&O’s sandwich Nazi” – and describes Nathan Custis as “a young, well-meaning news clerk.” Andy Curliss, who responds to the clerk’s note, is a veteran Raleigh News & Observer reporter.

Your thoughts on this “ethics case”? Please post in comments.

On Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 12:02 PM, Custis, Nathan wrote:

Hi everyone,

My wife and esteemed editor of the Campbell Law Observer, Katherine Custis, is looking for one or (preferably) two people with the N&O or one of our community papers to come in to Campbell Law School (just a few blocks from us) from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22, to have a Q&A with her and her staff about best practices, article writing, style and technique.
They’d like to have, between the two reporters (or editors!), a 5-10 minute presentation (something like Top Ten Writing Tips for Interesting Articles) with time for questions afterward.

The trouble is not without its perks; they are offering to buy you lunch at Café Carolina.

Let me know if anyone’s interested.

Nathan Custis
News Clerk
The News & Observer l l

From the newsroom veteran, sent three minutes later:

From: Curliss, Andy
Date: Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 12:05 PM
Subject: Re: Anyone looking for a free lunch 9/22?
To: “Custis, Nathan”
Cc: RAL Newsroom Staff

Reminder that our ethics policy generally prohibits accepting free food.

* 2.4 MEALS

* Newsroom employees will not accept free food, except under one circumstance listed below. If scheduling makes it imperative that you eat while the captive of the news or a source, the newspaper will make arrangements to pay.

At political meetings and sports events, there is usually a lot of food. We should avoid taking it when possible, and we should pay for it when it’s necessary to eat. Sports reporters, for example, often work under tight deadline, and the spread at an athletic event may be their only chance to eat. There’s no need for the reporter to attempt to pay for the food at that moment. The newspaper will make arrangements to reimburse the school or team. The exception is that it is OK to accept free food in cases where refusing it would be rude or insulting. An example would be a reporter accompanying a political candidate who is campaigning door-to-door and who is invited in for a barbecue sandwich or a piece of cake. If the reporter decides that good manners dictate accepting the food, then it is all right to do so.

I’m guessing that News & Observer journalists have been slipped honorariums for speaking to journalism classes and other groups. A lunch instead of payment seems acceptable to me.

The Wall Street Journal, which hasn’t had much luck with Pulitzers since it was acquired by Rupert Murdoch, has dismissed its longtime awards coordinator. Debbie Luczak Hoffman has had the job since 1992, according to her LinkedIn page. (She declined to comment, but I noticed that she posted Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” on her Facebook page over the weekend.)

My tipster says: “I have no idea how the Journal is planning on handling things now but the feeling is that fewer contests will be entered by the company.”

Earlier this year, Journal editor Gerard Baker told Der Spiegel that “I don’t judge the success of the Journal by the number of Pulitzer prizes. It doesn’t say anything about the quality of our journalism.”

Journal spokespeople Colleen Schwartz and Ashley Huston haven’t responded to my emails about Hoffman’s dismissal.

Update: Hoffman’s Facebook friends react to the news.


Cherry Hill (NJ) Courier-Post executive editor Christina Mitchell tells Romenesko readers:

The page is from an advertorial section that unfortunately did not have page headers indicating that. That was human error on the part of our advertising department. The story itself was on a PDF that was not supposed to run, again an error made here.

To reiterate: The section comes out of advertising and not the newsroom.

“Please don’t expect me to read your magazine if it doesn’t feature at least one screaming man.” (@bridger_w)
* Rick Berke, who left the New York Times less than a year ago to become Politico executive editor, resigns over strategic differences with his bosses. (
* Wall Street Journal media editor Martin Peers jumps to tech site The Information. ( | He’s welcomed by his new boss. (
* The Newspaper Guild seeks new owners for the San Jose Mercury News, Denver Post and other Digital First newspapers. (
* Derek Jeter answers a reporter’s phone call during a press conference. (“Walt, she’s going to have to call you back.”) (
* “Bloomberg News editorial policy is to not cover Bloomberg L.P.” (
* Charlotte Observer says it will “generally avoid references to the Redskins.” (
* Time Inc.’s CEO claims his magazines don’t cover their advertisers; he’s wrong. (
* A venture capitalist is asked: Why are you investing in a “shallow product” like BuzzFeed? ( | BuzzFeed editor: We’re investing heavily in journalism. (
* Report: Three Cleveland Plain Dealer courts reporters are replaced with young, non-union staffers. (
* Society of Professional Journalists updates its ethics code. ( | An improvement, but a disappointment. (Steve Buttry) | “Already, work is underway on an alternate SPJ Code of Ethics.” (
* Eric Weddle, who was laid off from Gannett’s Indianapolis Star on Friday, plans to spend a lot of time with his daughter, perfect his Aeropress coffee technique, and “find something new.” (@ericweddle)
* Vox: We shouldn’t have let our reporter buy bitcoins. (
* The Vancouver Sun defends using Chinese government money to pay for a columnist’s trip. (
* Remember the Indiana blogger who worked as an informant for bounty hunters last month? She’s resigned from her blog. (
* Steve Outing has started a Facebook group for journalists who write about the future. ( | The future looks bright to most Yale freshmen, according to a Yale Daily News survey. (
* Ouch! “It’s like Ross and Thurber. But with cheap hacks.” (
* “Foodie,” “kerfuffle” and other words banned by Eater National. (