New York Times drops oil sponsorship and sparks debate: Should news orgs back agenda specific events?

The New York Times on Tuesday ended its sponsorship of the Oil & Money conference, which is attended annually by CEOs from major oil and gas companies such as BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total.

The media company has had a relationship with the event since the conference began in 1980 and became an official sponsor of the event in 2013.

Earlier this summer, dozens of climate activists were arrested in front of the Times’ Manhattan headquarters while protesting, demanding the Times refer to climate change as an emergency.

The New York Times issued a statement citing its expanding climate change and environmental policy coverage and potential conflict of interest concerns as reasons for the decision.

Energy Intelligence, the company that hosts the Oil & Money conference, has not issued a direct statement reacting to the Times’ move but did announce later on the conference will be renamed to the Energy Intelligence Forum.

The statement says the change will go into effect in 2020 and is due to the evolving energy industry and climate change. Alex Schindelar, president of Energy Intelligence, said the Times' sponsorship drop accelerated plans to announce a conference’s rebranding.

Energy Intelligence would like to announce that the Oil & Money conference will, from next year, be renamed the Energy Intelligence Forum. We are proud that the conference has been a platform for open and unbiased debate for the energy industry since 1979, and are committed to maintaining the standards and values that our delegates have come to expect. But the energy industry is changing, and as our conference program has evolved in recent years to address the challenges of climate change and the energy transition, we felt that our conference needed a new identity and a new mandate. The world needs energy, but the energy industry must find ways to meet those needs in a more sustainable way. The mission of the Energy Intelligence Forum will be to provide a place where energy leaders can come together to debate, collaborate and find low-carbon solutions for the world’s energy challenges. We look forward to revealing details about the Energy Intelligence Forum at the Oil & Money conference, October 8-10 in London. Click here for further information on this year's conference.

- Energy Intelligence statement on Oil & Money conference renaming

The Times’ move to end the sponsorship has raised conflict of interest questions when it comes to journalism companies sponsoring events with a specified agenda.

On "Bulls & Bears," FOX Business' David Asman, Capitalist Pig hedge fund’s Jonathan Hoenig, Layfield Report CEO John Layfield, FBN’s Kristina Partsinevelos and FBN’s Jackie DeAngelis debated whether news organizations should attach their names to these sorts of events.

While some are saying the publication is caving to activist pressure, Layfield said he thought the Times was making a business decision to remove itself from a polarizing topic where “50 percent of the country is gonna hate you for this, 50 percent is gonna love you.”


FBN’s Kristina Partsinevelos raised the ethical issues that can come with this and said the Times shouldn’t be sponsoring anything unless “every time they have to cover [the topic] as a reporter, they have to preface ‘Hey, we put x amount of money behind this.’”