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Ethics Question No. 2

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

  1. Mr. X

    Mr. X Active Member

    I expect to see a City Council member at an event for another elected official today.

    I am going to ask for his new e-mail address, so I can e-mail him two of my previous stories related to a unsolved homicide.

    (I have e-mailed him in the past, but the most recent e-mail I sent was sent back to me as undeliverable.)

    I write about this homicide when its anniversary comes up -- which is in a few weeks -- and have to some up with a fresh angle every year.

    I want this year's angle to be the possibility of the City Council offering a reward in the case. (The lack of a reward has been an issue in the past. Authorities have said issuing a reward could help find the killer.)

    Because the city is very protective about its image, and this was a rare homicide, and a especially gruesome one, and even rarer unsolved homicide, the feeling is that city officials would prefer that this case just be forgotten. In part because body was found 200 yards from where I live and because this is a "good" story, I don't want it to be forgotten and I want the killer to be found and brought to justice. (I hope that's not an ethical lapse.)

    Homicide occurred before elected official was in office. The point of my e-mail is to let him know about the case, then ask if he would support the city offering a reward in the case. (Because of councilman's tremendous ambitions, it is likely he would be for this because of the positive coverage this could generate for him. All council members are elected at large, so this is not a matter of it being a district matter.)

    City policy is that all interview requests of council members must go through the public information officer. My fear is that I would never get the interview on this matter if I went through her.

    My question is -- would it be wrong if I directly ask the councilman for the interview? (This sounds like the cityside equivalent of bypassing an SID for an interview.) I need the public information officer to be on my side so I can get future interviews for the occasional cityside stories I do. Angering her in this matter could hurt, but I really want to get this interview.
  2. To answer your question: fuck the council's public information officer. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Ten years of covering news and I've never heard of a hack speaking for councilmen.

    Those are elected officials who are there to represent and answer to the public. If the city wants the pio to arrange interviews with paid staff, fine. But not councilmen. You call them up whenever you please - at home if you want. If you do anything else, you're not doing your job. Just walk up to the guy today and ask him questions. If they refer you to the pio tell them that's their policy not yours and you're going to call them for each and every story. You don't have to be an asshole about it, but you do have to break them of this and soon.

    Other observations: I think you're going about the story the wrong way. Whether the city puts up a reward is a minor point that can go somewhere near the bottom of the story. You need to go to the police and get them to open the file - is there anything new? How old is it now? Has it gone to the cold case unit yet? What are they doing with it? Any new leads?

    Remember, they're even more desperate than you to solve that case - at least they should be - and usually after a year or two they're willing to talk more about the case. Family as well. That's the story. I don't give a shit about the city giving a reward unless there's some mitigating circumstance that makes it interesting.

    Hope that helps.
  3. Babs

    Babs Member

    Agree. Contact who you want to contact however you can. I'm going through a somewhat similar thing right now, and I'm not about to change my ways. In fact, I may use more side doors as a response.
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