Jennifer Steinhauer is the L.A. Bureau chief for the New York Times. Her husband is Times television reporter Ed Wyatt. Steinhauer's having a book party in LA tonight for her new novel, Beverly Hills Adjacent. The location of the party: the home of Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton. What?
Now, to the untrained eye this may appear to be that ancient, hibernating specimen called a "conflict of interest." When we called up Steinhauer to ask if she thought it was, she said, "Jamie Lynton [wife of Michael] is one of my oldest friends" and asked semi-rhetorically, "Do I cover the movie beat?"
The Times' Hollywood coverage is run by its culture desk, while Steinhauer answers to the national desk. "I don't have anything to do with the cultural coverage," she said. But that's where her husband, New York Times Hollywood reporter Ed Wyatt works; Steinhauer pointed out that her husband covers TV, not movies, so this shouldn't conflict him.
Well! This is one of those cases where only extremely smart people can understand that this is fine. For example, Sony Pictures also makes television shows, which, we've established is what Ed Wyatt, Jennifer Steinhauer's husband, covers. He just wrote a story about Sony Pictures on March 23, in which Michael Lynton was quoted. Maybe it would be better if his wife—who also happens to be the NYT's L.A. bureau chief (we're being repetitive on purpose)—did not allow the head of Sony Pictures to host her book parties?
Of course, the NYT is far more expert in this issue than we are! Bernie Weinraub, their old Hollywood correspondent, is married to Amy Pascal— who heads Sony's movie studio. Before he retired in 2005, he also claimed to only cover television. So they know what they're doing here.
It may be that Sony Pictures executives are so inherently interesting, and honest, that NYT staffers based in LA naturally gravitate towards them. Which, okay then! Anybody can have any friends they want. But you can't have any job you want, always. The Times has already been embarrassed by its staffers' speaking fees this week. Sometimes it's better to have an abundance of caution, rather than no caution.