Times journalists occasionally are invited to speak to organizations or to appear on discussion panels. Before accepting, they should consider the purpose of the event and how it might be perceived. Staff members should avoid situations in which their participation could be construed as endorsement of the sponsoring organization's interests. In general, staff members should refuse honoraria for appearances, though exceptions may be made when the sponsors are educational institutions or journalistic organizations.

Staff members should be careful during such appearances not to make comments that stray beyond what they would write in the newspaper or online.

Personal relationships

Activities of family members may create conflicts of interest. The Times recognizes that it has no authority to restrict the activities of spouses, companions or close relatives of staff members who do not themselves work for The Times. However, The Times may restrict a staff member's assignment based on the activities of a family member or loved one. Staff members are responsible for informing a supervisor whenever a companion's or close relative's activities, investments or affiliations could create a conflict.

Awards

Staff members should enter their work only in contests whose central purpose is to recognize journalistic excellence. The Times does not participate in contests that exist primarily to publicize or further the cause of an organization. Under no circumstances may staff members accept awards from groups they cover. A staff member who is offered an award should consult his or her supervisor before accepting it.

The Times, like many other news organizations, does not allow its sportswriters to participate in voting for baseball's Hall of Fame, college football's Heisman Trophy and national rankings in college sports, among other areas. Participation in these polls creates possibilities for conflicts of interest. Similar issues arise in the arts when journalists are invited to vote for awards and prizes in film, literature and other fields.

In general, it is inappropriate for reporters to vote for awards and rankings; doing so could reasonably be seen as compromising their objectivity. For critics, whose job is to express opinions on the merits of creative works, awards voting is less troublesome.

Nevertheless, any staff member invited to vote for an award must first receive the permission of the editor or a managing editor. This pertains as well to anyone asked to serve as a contest juror or to vote on an award that honors journalism. No staff member who votes for an award -- whether in sports, the arts or any other area -- may be part of The Times' news coverage of that award.

PERQUISITES

Meals

Our principle is that we pay our own way. However, news gathering often occurs in settings where payment is awkward or impossible. When that happens, staff members should make every effort to reciprocate as soon as possible. Let common sense and good manners be the guide.

It is Times policy to reimburse organizations that provide meals or refreshments to journalists covering events they sponsor.

Travel

The Times also pays for travel by staff members on assignment. They may not accept free or discounted transportation or accommodations unless the same discount is available to the public.

Exceptions may arise when access to a news event or source can be gained no other way. A journalist covering a military or scientific expedition, for instance, may have no reasonable method to pay for travel. Those arrangements should, however, be the exception.

Review items

The Times receives countless unsolicited items, such as books, CDs and food, to review or cover. They are tantamount to news releases. Accordingly, staff members may keep such items for reference, share them with other staff members, donate them to charity or throw them away. No staff member may sell or otherwise profit by review materials.

Items of significant value -- such as electronic equipment, rare books and premium wine -- must be returned.

Gifts