Media Moves

Would you buy stock to cover an annual meeting?

May 20, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers held its Fifth Annual Gary Klott Ethics Symposium Sunday afternoon at its annual conference, and it gave its members the opportunity to vote on ethical issues.

I am posting some of the questions and the answers that SABEW members were allowed to pick from, as well as the results. I’m also providing comments from some in the audience to question No. 2.

SABEW1. You’re trying to interview a local CEO. You know he’ll talk if you can get past his secretary. A friend offers you a guest pass to the CEO’s country club. Do you?

  1. Take the pass and stake out the bar until he arrives.
  2. Refuse the pass because you wouldn’t be approaching him in a business setting.
  3. Ask your friend to approach him at the club as your intermediary.

75 percent answered A, 6 percent answered B and 19 percent answered C.

2. Your personal finance column will now be sponsored by a local bank. Do you?

  1. Ignore the ad, and write on any topic, without concern of appearance of conflict.
  2. Protest the bank’s sponsorship to your editor and refuse to write about anything that mentions banking.
  3. Go out of your way to write about everything that is “wrong” about banking and tack a disclaimer on the end of your column concerning your “sponsor.”

Again, 75 percent answered A, while 23 percent answered B and 2 percent answered C.

Henry DubroffThis issue drew a lot of comments from the audience, primarily becuase of the recent decision by the Philadelphia Inquirer to allow a bank to sponsor a column in the business section. Beth Hunt, manager of editorial operations at American City Business Journals, would answer A and said, “I don’t think readers care,” but Henry Dubroff, owner and editor of the Pacific Coast Business Times, said he would answer B, adding, “I would have an argument with myself.”

Diana Henriques of the New York Times wondered whether the response was too “print-centric” and noted that radio personal finance shows have been sponsored by advertisers for years.

3. The largest publicly traded company in your area decides to bar the media from the upcoming annual shareholders meeting. It has been in the news recently for back-dating options and other financial irregularities. Do you?

  1. Buy shares in the company and go as a shareholder.
  2. Seek out a shareholder to give you his/her proxy.
  3. Stake out the meeting and talk with shareholders as they leave and blast the company in the next day’s story for being so petty.

For this question, 57 percent said A, 15 percent said B, and 28 percent said C.Â

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