Magazine article The Masthead

Don't Write about Your Spouse's Employer

Magazine article The Masthead

Don't Write about Your Spouse's Employer

Article excerpt

Will's commentary may not be biased, but you can't sell that story in Peoria.

Try to make the case to Pete and Penny Peoria that George Will's praise for Bob Dole is credible analysis and not flagrant flackery. Go ahead. I couldn't.

I know the arguments for doing otherwise: Give the readers the information and let them decide.

Our job is not to police (and we can't possibly know) all of the conflicts of interest in columnists' lives. This is a two-career-couple world, and holding one partner responsible for the work of another is wrong.

But are we to run a disclaimer with every column Will writes on the presidential race? Isn't it an editor's job to consider conflicts of interest when choosing what to publish?

While I don't want anyone to hold my husband responsible for what I do, the fact is that many people do. Total identity separation is great in theory, but I don't find that it carries much weight on the streets of Peoria.

My decision not to run the Will column was consistent with past unwritten newspaper policies and practices. Fifteen or 20 years ago, when the editorial page editor's son-in-law ran for the state legislature, we refused to endorse in that race and told our readers why.

The reporter whose wife was a representative of the local power company at a time of considerable controversy wrote nothing about that company.

The business writer whose husband is an officer in the largest local development firm does not write about real estate or development issues, no matter how pressing the agenda. …

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