Monday, September 23, 2013

Make it Count: A College Junior's Ramblings on Conflicts of Interest

Amanda Hagley

Tell Me Why.

If you're writing a review on something or giving me a point of view, you had better be able to tell me why you think what you think.  As a reader or a viewer, I refuse to accept information just because a journalist tells me to. With so many opportunities for conflicts of interest to sway an opinion, how can a reader or viewer be sure that the information that they are processing isn't biased?  I think it is a journalist's obligation to be transparent about the ways in which they were exposed to a person, place, event or thing, as well as any personal stake they take in the issue and to respond accordingly.

So You Want Some Examples?

Photo courtesy of:
I have found that some of the most truthful reviews of products and ideas can be found on YouTube.  More times than not, self-made makeup gurus and movie critics will fill their viewers in on the ways in which they acquired their products.  This allows the viewers to decide for themselves if they believe that the information that they are receiving is biased.  YouTube make-up and hair guru LetsMakeItUp1 has to be one of the most transparent media users that I have encountered thus far.  You can check out one of her videos here.  In each of her videos, this vlogger always lists the ways in which each of the products she reviews were acquired, whether they were personally purchased or sent as part of a promotion from the respective company.

Most YouTube users start out completely independent with little to no conflicting financial, professional or political pressures swaying their opinions.  This is why any time I want to hear real, honest opinions, I find myself looking to independent sources like YouTube and personal blogs.

Let's Get Naked.

So what IS the best way to remain unbiased and to avoid conflicts of interest?  Be transparent.  Be removed from the situation.  Be honest.  Be naked.  If you feel that you received special treatment while reviewing a restaurant, you can still rave about your service, but make sure to include the fact that this treatment didn't seem to be the standard for other guests.  If a shoe company agrees to send you a free pair of their newest kicks in return for a good review, if you absolutely have to do the review, at least make sure you include the fact that the shoes were sent to you.  Give your audience a chance to decide for themselves how factual your opinion is.  Make your ideas count.  You can have an opinion; but if it's biased, let someone else tell the world about the topic.  There is so much news and information that we, as journalists, have the ability to cover.  If you're biased or have some kind of conflict of interest, take the high road, talk about something else, and give the public the respect they deserve through an honest report.  

No comments:

Post a Comment