Audit Notes: Business Insider’s junkets, NYT’s union dig, naive AP

Henry Blodget's site lets sources pay for business reporters' overseas trips

Henry Blodget’s Business Insider is still letting reporters take junkets paid for by their sources, which it should go without saying, is a serious ethical problem. No, it’s not okay, even if you disclose it at the bottom of your story.

Lucia Moses of Digiday reports:

Still more unorthodox, BI has published at least three stories in the past year that included a disclosure that a source paid expenses related to the coverage. A story by Steve Kovach about Samsung’s design philosophy, for example, includes the following disclosure: “Samsung paid for a portion of our trip to South Korea for this story, including the flight and some meals. Business Insider paid for lodging and all other expenses.”

Another, about Chinese Internet company Tencent, ends with this revelation from the author, Nicholas Carlson: “Disclaimer: I was only in Beijing because Tencent paid for me to fly to China to be on a panel. I paid for my airplane ticket to Shenzhen, however.”

A third, by Alyson Shontell, about a high-tech London hotel CitizenM, includes this disclosure: “London & Partners, a not-for-profit funded by the city’s mayor, paid for our flight and hotel to London this week to cover London’s startup scene. It paid the full price (about 400 pounds for three nights) at the CitizenM.”

The silly thing here is these junkets probably saved Business Insider no more than several thousand dollars in expenses last year. Blodget’s selling whatever credibility he has awfully cheap.

The New York Times looks at the printing industry in Britain, which is, obviously, retooling and retrenching. But this is odd:

Britain, with its heavily unionized work force, is also vulnerable to competition from elsewhere in Europe.

“The Italians offer very high quality but also low price because of their low labor cost,” said Robert G. Picard, a professor of media economics at the University of Oxford.

“And Germany and the Scandinavian countries have a very efficient printing industry, which takes away some of the price problems,” he said. “So for things that are time-sensitive like magazines and have to be done in the region, the best deal might be outside of the U.K. — and you can have your products here overnight.”

This reflexive blaming of unions doesn’t make any sense. Italy has much higher unionization rates than the UK, with 36 percent of workers in unions. About 65 percent of Scandinavian workers are organized. Just 26 percent of British workers are.

— The gumshoes at the Associated Press just can’t quite figure out how this German guy got his hands on so much magnificent art (emphasis mine):

Several hundred artworks hidden away for decades in a Munich flat - some believed to have been illegally seized during Germany’s Nazi era - are to be returned to the man who hid them, pending an investigation into their ownership, said German prosecutors Wednesday.

The collection - which includes works by Picasso, Chagalle and Matisse - was discovered in a raid upon Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment in 2012 and was subsequently confiscated pending an investigation into Nazi expropriation.

Gurlitt is the son of an art dealer who worked for the Nazis. It remains unclear how many of the items came into his possession.

h/t Zac Bissonnette

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,