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Is this a conflict of interest

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by YoungSportsJourno, Jan 19, 2013.

  1. This will be somewhat sports related, but not entirely.

    Basically, about a year and a half ago, my newspaper started streaming sports video from games, we essentially sold advertising, gave the school's media class a way to shoot video to our website, and gave the school a small check earmarked to them to help what was a starting program out.

    This was always an informal agreement we worked out with the school principal, AD and school district superintendent. No school board approval...probably should have, but their choice.

    Because there is only internet at the school's gym, we just streamed winter sports like basketball and wrestling.

    When I went to get permission to stream this year, I got the runaround. We're wanting to ask other school districts what they are doing, we have some questions first, etc. But, never interested in arranging a sit down and after a month or two, no word on an update from them.

    Didn't really have much of a problem. It brought in revenue, but not a back-breaking amount. Just continued with life...

    Well, two days ago, I hear from my always solid school sources that a school board member of this district, has partnered with a small company called CityLink TV and is also pursing a similar deal with the school that we had. However, school board member is also looking to get every single sports event archived online...which was a huge no-no from our experience with the coaches (makes it too easy for opponents to scout them). All the work, of course, being done by the school. Uploading of approximately 10-15 games per week. I talked with someone on the staff, they said it'd be about 45 gigs of video to upload every day. That would pretty much take all day.

    Our agreement was simple: they are filming at the game anyway. All we did was ran a cord from their camera to a computer and hit "Go Live." Any supplies they needed, we would furnish.

    Obviously we are pretty irked. We've been a staple in our community for 150 years, live and shop local like no other, and have always supported the school in anyway possible (not just limited to the magnitude of coverage we give them or the essentially free printing and distributing of their school's bi-weekly newspaper in our own paper).

    After thinking about it, wouldn't it be a conflict of interest for the school board member to be involved in this? Sources weren't completely sure if school board member was selling ads/profiting and if any of that profit would make it back to the school like ours did.

    So, what I'm asking for input is...would this classify as a conflict of interest? I'm also thinking of filing an FOIA and doing other investigation into it for a potential news story just because it seems extremely fishy and I'd like to know the details of this. If it's a deal just like we had, then wouldn't do a story, but I feel like since there is some much being done away from the public eye that there is more going on.

    Any input?
  2. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    My head is spinning. Let's sort out details:

    - You work for a small daily newspaper.
    - You cover one high school, which you have had a long relationship with.
    - You previously streamed video of that high school's games on your website, making money off it.
    - You used students to shoot the video.
    - The school wants to contract out the streaming videos to another company.
    - A school board member may be profiting in this plan.

    It may be worth reporting that the school board member is profiting, if that's the case. Mostly, this just sounds like you're upset because they are taking the content rights you don't own and trying to make a buck off them or get the games shot by a more professional company.
  3. I'd report on the conflict of interest the newspaper is involved with in entering a business relationship with an entity it covers.
  4. Flip Wilson

    Flip Wilson Well-Known Member

    I would agree with that, but, if I'm reading it right, the original question was whether the school board member is in conflict of interest. I would have to think that yes, the board member is in conflict if he/she has any kind of business arrangement that involves the school district. If the newspaper wants to report on that conflict of interest it should also report on the agreement that it had with the school district as well. If the paper does not report on that, then when the news of its arrangement comes out, it's going to look like the paper pursued the board member story just because the paper got shut out of the new arrangement. If you report one side, gotta report 'em all.
  5. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    1. Does the Board Member work for or own this other video company?

    2. Do you have any proof that the Board Member is profiting from this company in any way (kick back)?

    If #1 is true, the Board Member should abstain from any voted regarding this company.

    If #2 is true, he should go to jail.

    And since there could be substantial value to doing this, any of these contracts should be put out to bid. If they sign this company without an open bid process, then they are in the wrong.
  6. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Word for word my thought, though I wouldn't have said it that clearly. Unless what 93Devil suggests is the case, this is a non-issue as far as I can tell. If the board member is profiting, it is certainly a conflict, and possibly a crime. (see above)
  7. How much money can the school make out of this?
  8. slc10

    slc10 Member

    It is a conflict of interest and worthy of an foia request. In Georgia a lot of times the media outlet can roadcast for a fee that is considered par of the gate.
  9. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    When you say the board member has "partnered" with this other company, is he actually a partner in the company, or are you just miffed that you lost the rights? That's the key to the whole story for me....if the board member works for or is otherwise involved with CityLink then you might have a conflict story. If he doesn't and he simply came up with the idea to use those guys instead, you've got nothing.
  10. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    It still needs to go out to an RFP.
  11. Depends. Small-scale stuff usually doesn't.
  12. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Well-Known Member

    The only problem I see here is the school board member is in on this scheme probably for a profit that will land in his back pocket and not in the school's athletic budget. This is small-town politics. You see it every where you go in rural places. Here's the deal, there is a serious conflict of interest if a profit is generated and the delivery method of this service was not put for bid to the public.

    For example, let's say Podunk Bluff needs a ditch dug alongside a road to keep its public and government-funded golf course from flooding each time it rains. Well, the city council of Podunk Bluff puts forth the motion to build the ditch, then offers contractors through a public meeting the chance to submit bids for the project. Lowest bid wins.

    Same should be done in this situation. Somebody offers to broadcast the local school's games, lowest bid wins. School pays them, sells the advertising and nets whatever profit there is. This should NOT be going into the pocket of a school board member who has his own interests in mind.

    Other than that, it sounds like your paper has the conflict of interest. You shouldn't be broadcasting their stuff and trying to make money off them and yet still cover them without bias. That seems about impossible if push really came to shove over some sticky situation.

    Your paper needs to let this go. It has zero ground to stand on. Then it needs to follow up on who is broadcasting and selling the games, where the profit is going and if the profit is some sort of nepotism-type deal between the school board member and school.
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