Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Times-Union Tries Hard to Avoid Conflicts of Interest

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Times-Union Tries Hard to Avoid Conflicts of Interest

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Clark, Times-Union Reader Advocate

Journalists value their independence.

Anything that compromises our independence hurts the credibility of the product. And credibility is the lifeblood of journalism.

Though I have interests and personal opinions, I must do my best to keep those out of my work as a journalist. So if I join a group, I cannot give those members special treatment.

I cannot be a hyphenated journalist. My only obligation is to readers of the Times-Union, defined in the broadest way possible. Readers should be able to trust Times-Union news coverage on its merits alone and not suspect hidden alliances influencing news coverage.

Mistakes are made, of course, but those should be honest mistakes, not the result of favors or outside pressure.

The Times-Union takes pains to make sure that conflicts of interest are avoided. Here are some examples from the newspaper's Ethics Code:

-- Times-Union staffers do not accept free tickets or passes other than working press credentials.

-- News staffers may not handle public relations for organizations, no matter how worthy the cause.

-- Gifts of more than token value should not be accepted. Gifts that aren't returned are placed in the newspaper's internal auction. Last year, the auction produced about $8,000. Proceeds go to charity.

-- Staff members should not use their newspaper positions to obtain discounts such as travel or memberships.

-- Political work for a candidate, organization or cause is forbidden for news staffers.

The Ethics Code is not written as a legal document. Every situation can't be foreseen. Common sense must apply. But the object is made clear in the code's preamble.

"We as journalists have a large responsibility to make certain our reports are true and objective. A profession that subjects people and institutions to constant scrutiny must itself maintain the highest of principles. The integrity we earn by maintaining those principles is our most valuable asset. …

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