About a year ago when I interviewed the New York Times’ then-newly-minted scent critic, Chandler Burr, he told me that he aspired to bring a point de repère (French, Burr explained to me, for “sense of where you are”) to the “very commercial art” that is perfume.


Very commercial art, you say?


Today, the New York Post’s Page Six detects with glee a “Scent of Scandal at the [New York] Times — reporting that Burr “admits accepting free samples of a French fragrance to which he’d given a 5-star writeup last year — and then giving the perfume to patrons of a $200-a-head dinner he hosted this month.”


In his own defense, Burr told the Post that “Dolce & Gabbana offered to dress me and I said no.” Tip: When busted accepting swag from a company you wrote favorably about, one way not to win allies is to point to other, even more glamorous temptations to which you are exposed and to which you apparently did not succumb.


A better defense might have been, “I didn’t see anything one way or the other about perfume samples in the New York Times Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism.”

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.