Opinion



June 29, 2005, 6:19 pm

Full Disclosure of Ties with Bruce Ratner

The New York Times, I believe, has an obligation to alert readers when they are reading substantive articles about a company or individual with whom the newspaper has some business or professional relationship.

This obligation wasn’t fulfilled Sunday when the chatty “Questions for Bruce Ratner” in The New York Times Magazine failed to mention that the real estate developer and the parent company of this newspaper are partners in the construction of the The Times’s new headquarters in Manhattan. Given the smiling, page-high cutout photograph of Mr. Ratner that accompanied the article, it was an especially inopportune time to fail to mention his ties to The Times.
But it appears to be an unusual lapse. The Sunday article spurred me to check on how the paper has been doing overall during the past two years. Mr. Ratner’s project with The Times was mentioned almost every time he had a substantive role in an article.

Consistent disclosure of the newspaper’s relationship with Mr. Ratner is especially relevant as he moves ahead with plans to build an arena for the Nets in Brooklyn as part of a broader real estate project there. There’s vocal opposition to the Brooklyn project — and The Times will have to cover it. All the while, work will be proceeding on The Times’s new headquarters across the street from the Port Authority.

The Times’s most important obligation, of course, is to make sure there’s no bias in any articles it does publish about Mr. Ratner. But avoiding the perception of any tilt toward Mr. Ratner in its pages is also essential. One of the best ways to avoid a perception problem is to make certain that substantive articles about Mr. Ratner and his real estate dealings include full disclosure about his business relationship with The Times.


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About The Public Editor

Clark Hoyt is the readers' representative. He responds to complaints and comments from the public and monitors the paper's journalistic practices. His opinions and conclusions are his own. His column appears at least twice monthly on the Sunday Op-Ed pages.

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