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Conflicts of Interest

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Zhieh Lor

on 2 October 2013

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Transcript of Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of Interest
Real and Imagined
Arise from the roles we play within society and, for that reason, appear to involve particularistic duties rather than our general societal obligation.

a conflict of interest is a clash between professional loyalties and outside interests that undermines the credibility of the moral agent.
John Ellis
- Director of Fox News Channel's decision desk
- Responsible for collating and analyzing the exit poll information
- Republican candidate George W Bush and Jeb Bush
- First cousin to the Bush brothers

- "irreconcilable competing loyalty"
- said he was "surprised" and "dismayed" that Ellis remained in contact with the Bushes while working at Fox News.
- "Mr. Ellis has misused his role with the network, perhaps damaging its reputation.

Conflicting loyalties
- March 2001, Wallstreet Journal
- Retired GE chief executive JAck Welch
- Suzy Wetlaufer, divorcee who edited Harvard Business Review
- "she had lost the confidence of her colleagues.
A reporter: should avoid endorsing political causes, but the rest of us are not so constrained
- Divided loyalties do not involve any fundamental moral values [pp.212]
- Parents - never lie, cheat or steal but nothing about conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest raises questions concern about fairness and justice.

A judge who owns stock in a company accused of violating the antitrust laws, could not be counted on a conduct a fair and impartial trial

A reporter who is married to a city official might be tentative in uncovering governmental corruption at the local level
Banning the freebies
Participation in political/community organizations

- prohibits members from representing conflicting or competing interests without the express consent of those involved of from placing themselves in a position in which the member’s interest might conflict with those client.

Social of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
- concern with potential conflicts of interests, as well as actual conflicts, when it observes that journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
- Discourage second employment / political involvement, public office, service in community organization if it compromises journalistic integrity.

They are not required by our ethical system:

Jeffrey Olen, Ethics in Journalism
- If media organizations wich to adopt that policy in order to protect an enhanced image of trustworthiness to their audiences, that is one thing.
- But such policy is not morally required.
- Morally required is hat journalists, like anyone else, be trustworthy..
impropriety can undermine the credibility of moral agents
- music critic accepts free admission to an opera
- the appearance of conflict is often difficult to avoid.

Glendell Watts past president of NABJ
Convicted crime 7years ago [shooting white police officer]
Watts: Beaten by officer - self defense.
Prosecutor: Stop for speeding and shot officer
All white jury [2hrs] to convict Watts [sentenced to die]
Conflicting Relationship

- It is always difficult to serve two master
- Independent of action limited

- "actions and circumstances that may appear to compromise good business judgement or create a conflict between personal and professional interests'
Those who offer gratuities to reporters are not motivated by mere humanistic/altruistic instinct; they want to influence coverage.
Even if journalists were not influenced by freebies--which is a distinct possibility--the public might suspect that they were.
There is a certain hypocrisy in journalists exposing politicians and other power brokers who are "on the take" and yet being recipient of perks from outside sources.
While journalists deny they can be influenced by perks and freebies, sometimes the influence can be subtle, and they can never be absolutely confident that their objectivity has not been compromised.
There may be direct pressure from gift givers.
Ethics and the Global Society
"Ethics concerns the right and responsibilities of conduct and is closely related between individuals and society"
Society frequently change in terms of what they consider right and wrong as they move from one region of the world to another.

In April 1912, The New York Times paid $1,000 to Harold Bride, the surviving operator of the Titanic's wireless communications system, for his harrowing tale.
Japan - small payments, sometimes in the form of gifts such as duty-free liquor, are seen as maintaining balance and harmony in an exchange of value.
In 1976, the British journalist David Frost secured his interviews with Richard M. Nixon after offering the former president a staggering sum of $600,000.
- Free trip/Food/Lodging
- Movie industry - promote
"to maintain the integrity of relationships with the media, government officials, and the public" and to preserve "the free flow of unprejudicial information when giving gifts are nominal, legal and infrequent." -- PRSA
1. Gift & "Perks"
2. Checkbook Journalism
3. Personal Relationship
4. The Journalist as Citizen
- Can a journalist received a freebies?
- Raise the questions about the agent’s moral and credibility.
- News organization have specific prohibitions against gift & "perks"
- Sports team
- Political candidates
- War zone
"Reporters should not accept any gifts from the people they may have to write about. Reporters don’t even want to be in a position of having to distinguish between gift and a bribe. return all with a polite thank you."
Traditional journalistic commitment to truth and accuracy.
Paying for sources may well taint the quality of the information [economic motives]
Large payments for high profile public figures.
Ethical hackles - information may not be accurate.
Pay accident victims - exclusive interviews.
Transportation, lodging, and meals for newsworthy to designated location for interviews.
No clear-cut solution can be provided for avoiding every conflict of interest.
Avoid personal conflicts that are likely to undermine the media practitioner's professional obligation
Deontology - avoid foreseeable conflict as a matter of principle
Teleology - examine the potential harm to the varies parties caused by the conflict as a means of resolving the dilemma.
If the conflict cannot be anticipated, every effort to resolve the dilemma should be made.
If a conflict of interest cannot be avoided, it should be acknowledge to the public or clients
Personal Relationship
Patriotism is a formidable opponent for journalists attempting both to maintain a residue of healthy skepticism and to fulfill their responsibilities of citizenship
Loyalties between journalists' role as an independent watchdog and their obligations as citizen patriots.
"Search for truth is journalism's patriotic role."
In a democracy the pursuit of truth and a healthy dose of skepticism and detachment are themselves acts of patriotism.
While reporters must be careful not to divulge secrets that will compromise military operations or allow themselves to become pawns of terrorists, neither should they abandon their critical assessment or government policy.

Reporters cannot divorce from the culture
Reporters must rely on moral reflection and common sense.
"Unless journalists are one specific assignment to cover an event where people's live are in danger, they should ranger aid when no one else present to do so."
Vested Interests and Hidden Agenda
Economic realities of the business.
Expect to be paid for inside information.
Tonya Harding - Paid for exclusive interview on her conspired to injure Olympic rival Nancy Kerrigan.
Some reporters challenge the orthodoxy that investigative journalism should be immune from economic reality
News is not a tangible product - bought or sold in a marketplace.

Difficult to maintain a sense of detachment
Journalist must be particularly cautious if they are romantically involved with or married to a potential news source
Perception of a personal stake was sufficient to merit a reassignment.
Family member employment can be views as ethical problem.
A city editor whose wife is a staff reporter
Conflict of interest that might develop from families relationships
The Rise of Public Journalist
"I don't see why reporters should be the only ones who profit from producing news. We in the press seem to think [people] should surrender their privacy and submit to our embarrassing questions so that we can make money for it."
If financial incentives for gathering information become a mainstay, then news organizations will become little more than conduits for those who have an interesting story to tell.
So how reporters whop don"t pay compete with those who do?

If this become a common tactics, it might even produce some serious ethical soul-searching
On assignment for NBC and National Geographic, Arnett went to Iraq in 2003 to cover the U.S. invasion. After a press meeting there he granted an interview to state-run Iraq TV on 31 March 2003, in which he stated:
“Now America is reappraising the battlefield, delaying the war against Iraq, maybe a week and rewriting the war plan. The first plan has failed because of Iraq resistance. Now they are trying to write another plan… So our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States. It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments.”
Reporter: Sonia Nazario
Photographer: Clarence Williams
In one family, a three-year-old girl lived an itinerant life in deplorable conditions, moving from garage to crack house to addict's apartment, going 24 hours without eating. Her weight dropped 10 percent in one week. Her teeth were brushed ``with a toothbrush she is sharing with [her mother], who is HIV positive'' and has bleeding gums, read the cut line of a photo showing a man with bloody sores brushing the little girl's teeth. While her mother scores drugs, the toddler "passes the time alone...in the kitchen,
"hold a mirror up to society without tempering with the environment they were covering"
If they're just trying to hold up a mirror to society, then how do they escape their responsibility as members of the public to help helpless children?''
where she steps on shards from a broken jar,'' Nazario wrote, observing while the toddler ``hobbles to the sofa, sits down and digs two pieces of glass from her bleeding feet.''
Should reporters and photographers intervene when they witness a child being harmed over a period of time?
Should they notify authorities, or look the other way for the greater good of the story?
Watched as children were endangered and neglected time and time again by their drug-addicted parents.
civicly detached
stay attuned with community's need
develop news sources.

Rule of common sense
Journalist cannot be social hermits and retreat from all involvement in their communities.
The avoidance of conflicts of interest - journalists under a moral obligation
Journalists should be wary of outright political activism, because that is likely to be viewed as a partisan undertaking.
Reassigned: if journalist covering story they are interested
Membership in political not the cause of bias - but strong political belief.
An appearance at political event will attention the media - journalist national prominent.
Political contribution from journalists can also provoke accusation of conflict of interests.
"When a journalist takes a highly visible political role, it undermines the credibility of the paper"
"Editor has the right to attend event as a citizen... his participation did not affect the content... by his news organization..."
Public/Civic journalism - the idea of integrating journalism into the democratic process.
The media not only informs the public, but it also works towards engaging citizens and creating public debate.
News media as agents of change - problems and solutions.
Become active partner with community.
Hidden agenda - a hidden motive or intention behind an overt action, policy, etc.
Conflicts between media and practitioners' professional duties and their personal interests and agenda pose some intriguing questions.
Example: Financial reporters
Vested interests are likely to influence one's professional judgement.
Conflicting loyalties remain disclosed / hidden agendas motivate the moral agents, then ethical concerns are implicated.
Should remain detach to maintain credibility as journalist
If we remain aloof, members will view as abandonment. They might said we are out of touch with the plight if African American.
We may be African American but we must be journalist first, otherwise, we lose our credibility.

If the NABJ becomes an advocate for a cause, there will always be suspicion that our own reporting is biased.
...If we get involved in the Watts case, our professional duties will then become hostage to our personal views on racial justice.
This case isn't just about the guilt or innocence of one man. It is about the disbursement of justice for all African American.

...We might be accused of being disloyal to one of our own.
...if we become advocated for a criminal just because he happens to be black...we will be accused of embracing a double standard for black journalists--the kind of thing we should be opposed to.

debate relative importance of conflicting values or facts;
consider possibility of external factors;
consider: "what do we usually do?"
consider who will be affected, including you, colleagues, sources, advertisers, society;
consider both your emotional and rational response.

Washington Brown, African America
Adrienne Lattimore, 18 years old; freshmen; daughter of local bank president.
Louis Shadetree, 40 years old; plant manager; witness
Brown never denied being with the victim.
Brown picked up the wrench - offer help to Latiimore's flat tire for $10 [Rejected]
Brown denied the involvement of murder and rape.
...I would like the station to pay for the [DNA] test
I have an ethical problem with the station getting actively involved in this case, we are journalists...it's a conflict of interest--a violation of our professional responsibility to be objective
I don't believe that our code of ethics required that we stand on the sidelines while an innocent man is put to death...this will not affect our coverage of this case.
I agree that we must adhere to our professional responsibilities, but journalists are also citizen...
Our viewers may not believe that we can remain unbiased...even a perception of conflict of interests can affect our credibility.

debate relative importance of conflicting values or facts;
consider possibility of external factors;
consider: "what do we usually do?"
consider who will be affected, including you, colleagues, sources, advertisers, society;
consider both your emotional and rational response.

Channel 5's Healthwatch - awards - Phoenix City General Medical Center
Conflict of interest - serving two master
Health and physical issue and junk food ads
Commercial sides separated from news
Viewers are sophisticated to understand that there's nothing wrong with promoting good health and running commercial

debate relative importance of conflicting values or facts;
consider possibility of external factors;
consider: "what do we usually do?"
consider who will be affected, including you, colleagues, sources, advertisers, society;
consider both your emotional and rational response.
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