Thursday, April 21, 2011

Confronting Conflicts of Interest in a Clouded World

Mallory Knight

The issue of conflict of interest is an ethical dilemma that faces many professions.

Conflict of interest is no stranger to the field of journalism. As journalist’s we must constantly strive to be both credible and objective. Throughout journalism school, students are taught to abstain from instances or situations that may lead to a conflict of interest. But the article Maybe it's not so Obvious raises the question if “everyone knows conflicts of interest taint credibility… why do they keep cropping up?”

The above question leads me to wonder if is there a difference between the ethics of the industry and the morals of the professionals within the field. There are countless examples of professional journalists acting against the ethical standards set by the industry. Some of these examples outwardly seem to positive or in good faith, while others are obviously questionable.

In Checkbook Journalism Revisited examples of both, seemingly good and justifiable methods of payment, and questionable methods of receiving information are presented. In the cases of Jon Krakauer and Alex Kotlowitz, It is hard to say what the men did was wrong. Both knew they were to benefit from the information received from the subjects they were covering, financially and professionally. It only seems right that they share their reaping with those being covered. The subjects provided the seeds, water, and soil to grow a successful story. The journalist, in this sense, acts as the farmer, cultivating and shaping the raw materials into a story. The journalist depends on the subjects they are covering to provide them with material. It is hard to say they should not also benefit from the story.

I am not saying that it is ok or even justifiable to pay a subject for information. But there are times that are questionable. Not every example should be seen as malicious or with ill intent.

The following video examines the issue of accepting gifts and conflicts of interest within the fashion blog industry.

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