Business journalism ethics discussion at SABEW conference
The Society of American Business Editors and Writers held its annual Gary Klott memorial panel on ethics Saturday at its annual conference.
Here were some of the questions that business journalists responded to:
1. As a longtime reporter covering the business of health care, you’ve developed a number of stories based on drug price fixing. Your source for the stories calls you to tell you he’s been arrested for selling pills online. He asks you to help him post bail. Do you:
A. Write a check for $2,000 to help him make bail.
B. Politely decline the opportunity.
C. Call your editor to talk about your situation.
D. Give the source the $5o in your wallet and wish him well with his legal and drug prublems.
Twenty four responded C, while seven responded with B.
2. You hire a blogger to be your economics columnist on a contract basis. He’s a talented writer, and readers respond positively and he becomes a star. But after he takes on a politician, you start receiving anonymous e-mails about the columnist, stating that he’s the writer for a quarterly trade publication under a third name. Do you:
A. Dismiss the venomous e-mail as the work of a bitter politician seeking revenge.
B. Confront your columnist and ask him to explain himself before you fire him.
C. Draw up a new contract, requiring the columnist to disclose all other professional obligations and introduce terms and conditions that prohibit any other relationships.
Sixteen voted B, while 15 voted C. One voted A.
3. The CEO of a Fortune 500 company based in your town offers to provide your media outlet an exclusive weekly commentary under his name and photo. After several months, you meet a public relations professional from the CEO’s company who is telling fellow party-goweers that he is ghost-writing the column. Do you:
A. Chuckle along and soak up the stories, eager to share the behind-the-scenes stories with your co-workers.
B. Acknowledge that you have been duped by your boss and strategize a way to gracefully end the column.
C. Fire the CEO and write a column for the next installment that apologizes to your readers for misleading them.
Six responded A, 10 responded B, 12 responded C, and seven responded none of the above.