Ethics Hold ‘Em: PR, Journalism & Ethics Showdown

A spattering of stories and blogs the past couple weeks got me thinking about ethics.  Forgive the Link-apolooza.

Doubling Down

Can an agency fairly tell both sides of a story?  Looks like this was a case of a joint venture, agreed to by both parties. But serving two masters or advocating two positions is a slippery slope. The PRSA Code of Ethics covers this in sections on Competition, Safeguarding Confidences and Conflicts of Interest.

A couple years ago I was contacted by someone who in part would be in direct competition with one of my clients.  I gave them a quick thanks for the call, referred them to the PRSA ICF.

I remember trying to explain to someone (not in PR) why I had to turn down the client. I tried the “Coke vs. Pepsi” and “Mac vs. PC” examples, yet she did not understand that it would be unethical to accept competing clients.  <shakes head>

Ante Up

cardsThe Washington Post was caught in a “pay for play” scandal a couple weeks ago, attempting to sell access, serve as a power broker between reporters, politicos, and lobbyists.

The Guardian almost came to the Post’s defense arguing that it’s been done before, the Post screwed up by getting caught. For its violation of the public trust, David Henderson said the Post “broke every rule and code of ethical conduct in journalism.”

It’s pretty cut and dry that pimping out reporters and the power elite to high paying lobbyists trying to get in for their cause is just BAD. The press should strive to remain independent, impartial and “free.”

Stealing the Pot

The NYT PR Spin piece triggered many posts including TechCrunch’s and Brian Solis’.  Others:

From the article:  “Ms. Hammerling then hired a financial manager, persuaded some of Zeno’s clients to come with her and started a new firm in New York…”

Talk about spin.  She “persuaded” clients to leave one firm to start her own agency. No wonder her past employer had no comment on her tenure; that action speaks for itself.

Know when to hold, fold, walk, or run

cards2David Mullen and Lauren Fernandez wrote about the decision to publicly name an intern who broke five of the 10 Commandments of journalism, committed plagiarism. Gazette editor Jeff Thomas responded to the blog, citing the paper’s obligation to its community and readers, “And that requires providing full information.”  True that.

While others are divided about calling her out by name, many comments–mine included–think the paper was quick to distance itself, shun accountability.

The paper elected to hire a student as a newsroom intern, give this student-in-training a beat and her own byline. While they came forward and apologized for the “breach of trust,” the PTB at the Gazette didn’t step up and own the fact that as the employer of the intern, they were responsible for teaching and supervising this young woman and did a poor job of doing so.

Final thoughts:  Nothing deep or especially clever, just Fire Bad, Tree Pretty, Ethics Good.

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4 thoughts on “Ethics Hold ‘Em: PR, Journalism & Ethics Showdown

  1. You’ve compiled such a long list, that it’s clear that this work is a slippery slope and that thinking and blogging about these issues is a a good idea. Transparency is the major issue perhaps.

    1. Roger,

      Integrity and honesty are important in any business. Hopefully we’ll continue to embrace “Transparency” as we move forward. Thanks for your comments. -DKB

    1. Gini,

      Yeah it’s a little rough to read story after story about questionable business practices. I’d like to see a few stories offering some positive examples. Thanks for the comment. -DKB

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