Thursday, May 12, 2011

Connecting the bystander to the story

Shawna Polivka

Obtaining a newsworthy story without acquiring a conflict of interest can be hard at times. Many people are skeptical of the press and simply do not want to talk to them. Journalists must understand what it means to avoid a conflict of interest ( They have to eliminate friendships and refuse gifts where possible. Journalists need to have the ability to retrieve the information needed while keeping emotions and wants on the backburner.

This leads me to the question, how does a journalist obtain information for a story if a connection felt between the reporter and the interviewee cannot exist?

Journalists encounter conflicts of interests in various ways. For example, in the article “Bottled Prose: The Ethical Paradox of the Wine Press” by Robert D. Richards, reporters can often be lured to write a specific way after having received gifts and travel from the subject being interviewed. Or they can fall in love with a story and start to show the emotions it created like in the article “A Journalist Breaks the Golden Rule” by Howard Rosenberg. In that instance, reporter Anna Song chose to deliver a eulogy at a funeral for the two girls. The girls had been murdered and she was covering the story for the newspapers.

Deciding between right and wrong can be difficult. I believe taking gifts and being bribed to write a certain way in unethical. No journalist should be taking gifts because it will most likely sway their opinion about the subject. And furthermore, no journalist should give gifts prior to receiving the information because it could change the truthfulness of the subject. I think everyone has the right though to speak on behalf of two murdered girls at a funeral. And if you live with a family and they take you in, perhaps a small gift would be a sign of thank you.

The bottom line is, the line between right and wrong is fine. I think it is our jobs as journalists to do what we are told and avoid conflicts of interest. We do not have to put up a brick wall between the interviewees and ourselves; a simple chain link fence will suffice.

To avoid any scrutiny, reporters should disclose the most information possible to the reader ( An article by the Radio Television Digital News Association suggests that journalists ask question when trying to decide such as how can you disclose the information in a story? ( And if all else fails, The New York Times Company Press says that detachment is key and to have someone else cover the story.

No comments:

Post a Comment