Betsy Schiffman of Wired writes Tuesday that there’s a journalism conflict of interest in the Washington Post agreeing to syndicate items from the TechCrunch blog, run by Michael Arrington, who freely admits that he invests in some of the companies he writes about.
Schiffman writes, “We threw the question out to the Washington Post. Does Arrington’s practice of investing in companies he may write about break with the newspaper’s ethical policy? We contacted the ombudsman, the business editor and a company spokesperson, but we haven’t gotten a response. We’re happy to update this post if and when someone there sees fit to reply.
“In the meantime, here is an old copy of the Washington Post‘s Code of Standards and Ethics, which clearly states that the company has pledged to ‘avoid conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest, wherever and whenever possible. We have adopted stringent policies on these issues, conscious that they may be more restrictive than is customary in the world of private business.’
“We asked Peter Sussman, who serves on the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, for his take on the situation.
“‘The one thing that newspapers still have over new online outlets is the brand, the name and the standards. They’ve told readers that by the mere presence of a story on the Washington Post, that it’s been through a rigorous analysis or edit and it is up to their standards. The assumption is that unless you hear otherwise, the content you see in the Post has gone through that ethical screening.'”
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