November 17, 2015

"Many readers wanted to know the arrangements behind David Brooks’s participation on part of a $120,000 luxury trip..."

"... which he wrote about for T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Many on Twitter and elsewhere charged that this must be a junket — a free trip for a journalist, which is, of course, an ethical no-no. (Others objected in strong terms to the article’s concept, its tone, and the The Times’s relative wisdom of spending a large sum of money for this purpose.) The Times’s standards editor, Philip B. Corbett, assured me late Friday that the company had paid for the portion of that trip for which Mr. Brooks was present. (Yes, that covered both bottles of champagne.) A sentence in the article making the arrangement clear to readers would have been a good idea."

Writes the NYT "public editor" Margaret Sullivan. I was one of the "others" who "objected in strong terms to the article’s concept, its tone." Here's my post: "It's not the most poorly timed NYT article ever, but...." I was just seeing a new comment on it from DANIELBLOOM:
Was Brooks shilling for the travel firm, and, did he accept offer of free trip for 6 days or did he pay his own way for the 25 percent of the trip fare? Like US$30,000 Fact checkers? Or was this a paid junket by the travel firm and therefore unethical for NYT reporter to accept this? Can anyone answer?
I hadn't thought of that question because I assumed the NYT paid for it, which was correct. I'm more interested in knowing whether he was able to hide his identity as an important reviewer, like a NYT restaurant reviewer. I remember NYT restaraunt reviewer Ruth Reichl talking about that:
"I have a really strong belief that I am there to be your eyes and ears when you're at the restaurant. I'm supposed to tell you what's going to happen to you, not what happens to the restaurant critic of The New York Times who is getting the best table and the chef is cooking the food specially and the portions are getting bigger and so forth. I think it's really important for you to know what's going to happen to you. And you can't do that if you're sashaying in as someone who's going to have a big economic impact on the restaurant."
But when you travel around the world in a small chartered plane with a group of people, you are having a much more intimate relationship with them than when you eat in a restaurant and the other people are at other tables. So I also wonder whether the people Brooks traveled with and wrote about (wrote about disparagingly!) knew they were under observation by a NYT writer. If they knew, did they consent? These people had shelled out $125,000 apiece for what, I assume, was, for them, their dream vacation. Were they put into the position of needing to account for what this powerful man might think and say about them? Was that fair? Or did they not know who he was, in which case the Four Seasons allowed them to be used as specimens from what Brooks ended up sniffing at as the "lower end of the upper class"?

19 comments:

Ipso Fatso said...

Isn't Brooks on NPR every week and hasn't he been for years? Hasn't Brooks been on other various TV talk shows over the years, as well? Unlike your rather anonymous NYT restaurant critic, who made it a point to conceal her identity, someone on that trip had to know who Brooks was and no doubt would have informed the others of his presence. I have a hard time believing that he did this completely anonymously.

Mark said...

What's funny is the Times target audience is those who aspire to be "the lower end of the upper class." Brooks is the fish who taps his own glass.

traditionalguy said...

If anyone ended up seated next to Brooks for that long a trip, they deserve a full refund and damages for soul shrinkage.

David Begley said...

Forget about it Althouse. It's The New York Times.

TreeJoe said...

I have a serious problem with Brooks article and frankly, I think the Times should consider canning him, his editor, and whoever else approved this without reservation for the following reasons:

1. A couple who shells out $250k for a LONG 4-seasons vacation is not the lower end of the upper class. They are solidly in the upper class. An individual or couple making $500k a year will likely have take home pay of $250-300k (after taxes and other withholdings) and will use half of that on home, cars, insurances, etc.

When you can shell out $250k for a couples vacation and take that amount of time off, you are solidly upper class.

2. Brooks perception of these folks comes from the way they talk and act. His desire for more pretension, combined with how he perceives their socio-economic status based upon discussions, is incredibly elitist - as is his editors.

3. Did the people he traveled with give their ok to be written about on their vacation? Given it's such a very small and specific pool of people, I'm assuming they could be easily identified by their family and friends as having dissapeared for a month. Were they ok with being "outted" in this fashion?

This is just a mess of epic proportion.

mccullough said...

Brooks is just a dork from the University of Chicago whose wife left him because he's a careerist asshole. His ersatz profundity is a joke.

Sebastian said...

You are getting at something more important than the supposedly bad timing.

In academic research, this would be a serious IRB violation and have legal consequences.

But as with plagiarism, I doubt the same rules will be brought to bear on "journalists."

lgv said...

Income wise, I'm lower end of the upper class. I am not capable of spending $125k pp for a vacation. People who can afford this vacation are solidly in the top 1% or trust fund babies.

I'm pretty sure Brooks would fit in the target economic demographic for this trip, even though he pretends not to be. He travels back to a mental state from his early career, pre-Times, best sellers, and PBS gig.

mikee said...

Why are you concerned with the plebes on the trip, who were exist only as foils for Brooks' sense of superiority (which likely brought its own luggage for the trip)?!

Skeptical Voter said...

As for class and character, David Brooks is solidly "lower class". Same goes for his ethics. "Dork" doesn't begin to describe a person who will trash those wealthy folks from flyover country to get a bit of applause from the NYT crowd.

David said...

Class and wealth are not always congruent.

My guess is that for many of the persons on that trip "lower end of the upper class" would be an upgrade. Many also would not care what "class" they were in. (Not caring is a big step towards the upper class, whether they like it or not.)

Paco Wové said...

I'm more interested in knowing whether he was able to hide his identity

"Hey, Mabel, remember that pretentious smug jackass on our trip that looked just like David Brooks?"

Marty Keller said...

This invented imbroglio assumes that a) the New York Times has value to anybody outside its echo chamber and b) David Brooks is worth the key strokes.

Me, I'd rather listen to Obama whistle through his teeth.

Sebastian said...

I wonder if the fellow travelers were on to his game and reserved their more honest heart-to-hearts about the meaning of life for after-hours bull sessions in their hotel room to which DB was not invited--using DB as object lesson: "if there's anything I hate in life, it's pretentious condescending schmucks like that guy, who . . ."

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I dispute the premise that Brooks is an important person.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Also, what Igv said. Brooks may not think someone who owns a family carpet business is in the upper upper-class, but that is snob distinction. If you can afford to spend $250,000 and take off a month you are rich, rich, rich!

Brooks is just resentful of the C student that is, by any sane criteria, more successful than he is. But Brooks is a knowledge worker, just like Bill Gates. So he is obviously of a higher class than people who provide actual goods and services to people.

Richard Dolan said...

Unlike many here, I make a point of reading Brooks' columns (haven't been interested enough to read his books, though). In his moralizing (more kindly, an effort to find a moral compass that makes sense in contemporary society), he reminds me a little of Theodore Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson. They could be quite cutting about the "lower end of the upper class," too, particularly those who had made it in business. Does being a throw-back to a literary tradition that's been out of style for a century make you a conservative? Perhaps not. Like Dreiser and Anderson, he's not to everyone's taste.

Freeman Hunt said...

If you realized Brooks was on your trip, it would be fun to put on a yokel act every time you talked to him.

Nichevo said...

Probably they are all his people - rich Dem voters - and he hates that they are cattle, not up to his standards. Ah well Davey, cut your coat according to your cloth...

how is this guy a conservative again?