Stretched Ethics

Incoming head of WSJ’s new luxury magazine plugged her own yoga business, quoted a partner in Times of London columns

The new chief of an upcoming Wall Street Journal magazine aimed at the superrich quoted her business partner in a Times of London column and mentioned their business—a small chain of yoga studios—in other columns without telling readers of her interest in it.

Tina Gaudoin, named this week to head the as-yet-unnamed lifestyle quarterly, was a lifestyle editor and regular columnist for the Times Saturday magazine since 2003 and had written for the paper off and on since at least the late ’90s. Last June, she was named to run the Times’s own magazine for the rich, Luxx.

She also is a co-founder and co-owner of Triyoga, a three-studio chain in London.

Her column “Coolhunter,” in the Times Saturday magazine, was light and didn’t pretend to be consequential. It pointed readers to trends and fashionable products and services—Armani underwear, Versace dinnerware, something called Kendal mint cakes, etc. The style is chatty:

The Albert Hall is awash with Up-Dos. Here’s Lady Helen Taylor looking distinctly slim and soigne in grey Armani, a teensy Alice band, her hair swept fetchingly onto the top of her head; and here’s the editor of InStyle, the tiny but perfectly formed Trish Halpin, worrying about whether her own Up-Do looks a little, well ‘Bet Lynch’; it doesn’t. Both look terrifically chic. And who should be next up on stage at Fashion Rocks but our very own Lily Allen, for Chanel, with a neat fringe and a French chignon?

Still, she mentioned Triyoga five times since 2000, quoting her business partner in an October 2005 piece on mixing yoga with other exercises.

‘It’ll be yoga for walking the dog next,’ says Simon Low, co-founder of Triyoga, in Primrose Hill. According to Low, who admits to the odd run in the park himself, yoga practice should be strictly separate from any other activity….

In a November 2003 story headlined “All I Want for Christmas,” featuring gift recommendations from Times columnists, she included this item.

Pink yoga mat, Pounds 24, and corduroy bag, Pounds 30, Triyoga (020-7483 3344).

Meanwhile, other Times reporters offered several plugs for the popular Triyoga chain in the news pages while Gaudoin was a Times employee.

A December 9 column called “Body Matters: Health” recommended a spa vacation offered by the chain.

Think you’ll need a spiritual breather by the time Boxing Day is over, but can’t afford the flights to India? Perhaps you should book your spot on Triyoga’s Christmas retreat. Four days of yoga classes, wholesome vegetarian lunches, restorative breathing exercises and chanting should infuse you with energy in time for the new year.

Urban Retreat 2007, Pounds 230, December 28-31, Triyoga, NW3; 020 7483 3344

Both The Wall Street Journal and the London Times are owned by News Corp.

Gaudoin couldn’t be reached. Robert Christie, a Dow Jones spokesman, said: “Tina Gaudoin’s ownership in the privately held Triyoga is widely known. Nothing in the Dow Jones Code of Conduct bars employees from owning interests in privately held companies.”

He declined comment on her journalism work prior to joining Dow Jones. A News Corp. spokeswoman didn’t have a comment.

Is it the biggest deal in the world? No. The columns, again, are not on the most serious subjects of all time. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of money at stake, and it should be noted that Triyoga is mentioned often in non-News Corp. publications.

Also, I have no idea about ethical standards in Britain and Europe; they may be looser than they are here.

But quoting your business partner without disclosing it would be way out-of-bounds at even an average U.S. newspaper. And on this score the Journal isn’t average. Dow Jones & Co., the Journal’s parent, has one of the most restrictive ethics policies in the news business and is not shy about proclaiming that fact.

Dow Jones’s code of conduct is as long as your arm and includes sweeping, adamant language that clearly precludes mentioning any employee’s business in news pages without disclosure, let alone a reporter mentioning his or her own business or quoting a partner:

The Company will suffer, for example, if our customers cannot assume that:

• …Our analyses represent our best independent judgments rather than our preferences, or those of our sources, advertisers or information providers…

• There are no hidden agendas in any of our journalistic undertakings….

All companies profess business integrity. But the impact of our work on the work of others, and on their lives and fortunes, places special responsibilities upon all Dow Jones employees.

That’s as good a reminder as any of what a lofty—and precarious—place the Journal occupies, not just in business news, but in business itself.

Standards that may be acceptable in Europe or at other News Corp. units won’t cut it here.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.