Thursday, September 29, 2016

So Much Conflict

Sarah Blankenship

It is pretty humorous that if you type "conflict of interests" into the Google News search, 90 percent of the headlines are about Donald Trump and his campaign. I am not a political guru myself, but I have seen and heard enough about Trump to not be surprised by this finding.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial board explained in an article that "the Trump Organization... has interests around the globe." So this is all one big conflict of interests?

Enough about Trump. I'll leave that question up to you.

Conflicts of interests, and the act of avoiding such situations, are at the very core of journalism ethics.

Back in high school, we were always asking to make sure that we didn't write a story in our school newspaper if we were even remotely related to the story.

As Editor-In-Chief I wouldn't let a soccer player cover the soccer team or let a member of the debate team interview one of their peers on the team. We were oblivious to the real-world implications of the issue, but we were on the right track.

I was particularly struck by one of our readings. It was Los Angeles Times article from 2002 written by Howard Rosenburg. Anna Song, a reporter and part of the KATU coverage team, spoke at a memorial service for two young girls who went missing and were found dead and buried very close to where they lived.

This article was a successful attempt at bringing light to something that should have never happened. That is our job as journalists. We must simply share the news with our audiences.

Anna Song may have felt like she knew the girls after interviewing one of them before her disappearance, but it wasn't her job to speak at their memorial service.

Sure, who doesn't want to be recognized as someone with a big heart who cares about their community and all of those who are in it? Journalists need to be objective; it is not our job to be activists.

We also spoke in class about Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief of The Times, who's son is in the Israeli military. In the article titled Too Close to Home, Clark Hoyt explained the controversial subject and the obvious conflict of interests.

Our table talk in class revolved around if we thought Ethan Bronner should be able to keep his job. Some argued that he should, other said he should not and some tried to come up with solutions such as temporarily taking him out of his position until the controversy had died down.

There are so many different paths and solutions to correcting conflicts of interest before it becomes a larger issue. In Anna Song's case, she cannot take back her speech. Ethan Bronner could've just offered to step out of his position when his son joined the Israeli military; that would have saved the controversy.

As I said before, conflicts of interest are at the very core of journalism ethics. As journalists, we should take steps to avoid putting ourselves in those situations so we can be clear, concise, objective and professional in our reporting.

No one should have to question our judgments.

1 comment:

  1. Your last sentence confused me. If you want to be objective, why mention your judgments? I don't really agree with the idea that journalists should be completely objective ALL the time. We are human, we have feelings, and some of the best writing and "journalism" is unabashedly not objective. Write from your heart, don't be afraid to judge, and maybe your brilliant writing might save a suicide, or motivate someone to be President, or do something else of untold beauty that wouldn't have happened if you were trying to be politically correct. Not every piece of journalism has to be devoid of personal, heartfelt feeling.