Thursday, September 29, 2016

Too Attached?

Brea Burks

Conflict of Interest is a very touchy topic in the journalism world. Writers are always faced with the decision if they should report or interview someone because they might be “too close” to the story. You also have to be aware of the ethic codes that you can break by “getting too involved” with an incoming story. RTDNA wrote an article of the ethic codes that journalists should not break when it comes to conflicts of interest.

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But let’s move on to the readings.

The story that grabbed my attention was the Anna Song story. This story was published in 2002 by Howard Rosenberg in the Los Angeles Times. The story explains how a reporter covered the kidnapping and murder of two teenagers. Their bodies were found months later in the suspect’s yard.

A lot of rules were broken by Song when she went to the school to speak about the teenagers that were killed. Once Song started to feel an attachment to the story, that’s when she should have pulled away and asked to work on another story.

We as journalists need to know what is too close to home. It’s our jobs not to be biased and feel self-involved in the stories we have to cover.

Now, I do understand if you feel that you need to finish the story the best of your abilities, however, Anna Song didn’t need to put herself in the shoes of the family members who lost their loved ones. I do believe that the reporter became attached once she interviewed one teenager about the first missing girl, then that teenager also disappeared. That’s when Song needed to step back. After this story was reported, Anna Song became an activist. This fits perfectly in the code of ethics of what NOT to do.

Let’s switch gears and speak on a different topic. Is that OK with you? Great!

Another “sticky” situation, per say, was the discussion we held in class about the reporter, Ethan Bronner. His son enlisted into the Israeli Army while he was writing as the Jeruselem Bureau chief for the New York Times. In my eyes this story is blatantly wrong in so many ways.

The difference between the story of Anna Song and Ethan Bronner is how close each person was to each situation and how quickly each one could have pulled away. For Anna Song, she might have not noticed until very further in the story that she was getting too close to the victims. However, Ethan Bronner knew his son was enlisting into the Israeli Army while he had the job.

In Bronner’s position, he should have asked for a different position or even switch to a different country once he knew his son’s decision, but he decided to stay. This made him potentially very biased on the stories he was producing the company he worked with because he focused on one entity. He wasn’t even writing the stories his employers asked. If journalists reach the crossing point of not producing great content for readers, then it’s time to take responsibility and pass on the information to someone who is capable.

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