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Ethics Question No. 1

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mr. X, Sep 16, 2007.

  1. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    In my capacity as a voter, I e-mailed an RSVP to an elected official about a campaign re-election event she is conducting. An RSVP was requested, but not required.

    Elected official had last seen me at a major sporting event and called out my name. (She had recognized me from my picture in the paper, but thought I had worked for our paper's despised rival.)

    In my RSVP, I e-mailed her a link to a story previewing a visit to the area by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in an effort to boost my credibility as a news reporter to her, rather than just a sports reporter.

    Elected official e-mails me back, making reference to her closeness to Clinton.

    One of my goals for the year is to interview Clinton, who at the beginning of the year I thought would be elected president in 2008. (I'm not so sure about that now.) I thought my publisher's extensive Democratic Party ties would help me get an interview with Clinton, but he said he couldn't help me.

    Here's the question -- would it be unethical to ask elected official if she could help get me an interview with Clinton?

    I anticipate having to write one story about elected official before the November 2007 election, then a story on the results. Part of me thinks that the moment the polls close, the elected official won't give me the time of day, but before that, she'll try to act like my best friend.
  2. ColbertNation

    ColbertNation Member

    That makes it dicey. It seems like an incredible opportunity, but I don't know about asking a favor of someone who you have to cover in an upcoming election. If the election is the end of your coverage of said individual, it might be OK to ask after you write your follow-up, but I would be wary of doing anything before the election.
  3. Dude, you're in all sorts of territory you shouldn't be in. "Capacity as a voter ..." What does that mean? In you're capacity as a voter, you vote. That's it.

    Are you going to this politician's event as part of your job? If you plan on going in your 'capacity as a voter', don't go - especially if it's a fund raiser. DO NOT GO. DO NOT GIVE MONEY. Don't pay an admission fee because that is a political contribution. Don't go for free, either.

    Some people on here may say it's OK to give a political donation but it's not. It's completely unethical if you're going to cover the race. Stay the hell away.

    Now to your answer your question with my own questions: Why do you want to cover Clinton? For your paper? As a stringer? Anything relevant to your community? Why not Obama or any of the other Democrats? Why not Republicans?

    You make it sound like you're a fan, which is another reason I'd suggest you drop it and report on stuff that makes a difference in your community. Honestly, you're in territory you don't want to be in.

    PM me if you need anything else at all.
  4. markvid

    markvid Guest

    I'm with Write.
    You are looking at this from a very bad angle.
  5. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    Said event was a free reception, open to the public, where the elected official-candidate spoke. I ended up meeting with likely source for future story and improved my relationship with elected official. She knows me better, making it more likely that she will return my telephone calls. All in all, this was a positive, with no apparent ethical problems.
  6. Cansportschick

    Cansportschick Active Member

    Agreed that this smells bad....

    If this candidate gets you the interview, chances are that they expect something in return...something you cannot give, like favourable coverage, especially when elected official does something negative or is associated with negative news.

    Just saying it could come back to haunt you....

    You have to show no bias to the elected official that could potentially score you the interview with Clinton.
  7. Does anybody ever come on here looking for honest-to-goodness advice or guidance in these matters or is everybody just looking for validity of a preconceived opinion?


    W_B was dead-on-balls accurate in his assessment.

    There are so many problems with this, Ted Kennedy would have said WTF?
  8. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    I have not asked the elected official seeking re-election for help in getting me an interview with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
  9. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    I'll keep this short.
    If you worked for my chain -- and were under my supervision -- you would at the least be on probation and probably fired. Seeking and publicly endorsing political candidates is not an act any journalist should think of partaking.
    Vote all you want. Don't campaign.

    (And you can't be at an event "as a voter" and then make source contacts. That puts you there as a professional.)
  10. Cansportschick

    Cansportschick Active Member

    Mr.X, that's a great decision (if that's your final answer).
    In the long run, you will realize that you made the right choice.
  11. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    I did not endorse or campaign for any candidates. I just went to hear somebody speak. I was asked to sign something and did not.

    I guess I was there as a professional then.
  12. Barsuk

    Barsuk Active Member

    I agree completely with Write-Brained.

    But just out of curiosity, would it change things if Mr. X were strictly a sports reporter and never wrote anything about the political arena? Would it then be ethically acceptable for him to attend political functions "in his capacity as a voter" and/or make political contributions?
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