Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Is The Risk Worth The Reward?

Jenny Arundel

In today's world of journalism, the codes of ethics are well-known by every journalist. These people learn the value in having ethical standards as early as their first journalism class. One of these important codes is the code of conflict of interest.

As discussed in readings in my ethics class, a good journalist never accepts any type of gift, money, or promotional offer from anyone they are reporting on. If anything is accepted, this creates a conflict of interest and a reporter's opinions may ultimately impact the content that is produced for the public.

Conflicts of interest can be issue no matter what beat a reporter is taking on. Some of the classic situations involve the music industry, tourist industry and restaurant industry. One of the newest industries that is growing larger is now the wine industry.

Because news and journalists are supposed to serve the public in the most honest way possible, what happens when people succumb to these temptations?

One of the most outspoken supporters of ethics, The New York Times has submerged itself into exposing those who break the ethics code.

In the article, Conflicts of Interest at the F.D.A. The NYT exposes a company that produced a supplement that claimed to help those taking it lose weight. One of the ingredients in the supplement was actually found to be extremely dangerous.

"The worrisome ingredient is BMPEA, a chemical nearly identical to amphetamine."

The NYT discovered that a doctor who used to work for the company producing the supplement in question recently moved to a power-wielding position within the FDA. This move causes a conflict of interest.

Because the doctor had personal ties and possibly would have still profited from the profits of the drug and then started working for the FDA, his bias was in jeopardy and he violated the ethics code.

"Putting the industry in charge of supplement regulation is like appointing the fox to guard the henhouse. Clearly, the FDA should not allow industry insiders to fill key positions."

Via www.whale.to/v/vaccine_research.html

In another case of conflict of interest, a blogger who claims he does not have to follow the ethical codes is criticized for his posts.

In Why transparency is not enough: The Case of Mr. Mike, a tech blogger who writes about companies he personally invests in argues that he is not being unethical and that any blogger should have a conflict of interest in order to produce more-informed material.

Though he didn't label himself as a journalist, Mike Arrington received flack from others and eventually changed his policy to be more transparent with his readers.

Under new management for his blog, Arrington began including which products he blogged about he actually had money invested in. He argued that by doing this, he was being transparent enough for readers to draw their own conclusions.

Eventually, Arrington resorted back to his original belief that some ethical codes simply don't apply to him and argued that being transparent was enough for his own ethical standards.

When we live in a time where virtually anyone has the power to publish material and be a "journalist", where do we need ethics and when can people fly under the ethical radar like Arrington? Is being transparent about your conflict of interest as good as being completely unbiased?

In my opinion, I think it's best to stick with the basics that were taught in journalism 101. When in doubt, stick with the codes.

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