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Journalistm ethics when journalism is your second job

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by farmerjerome, Dec 21, 2010.

  1. farmerjerome

    farmerjerome Active Member

    No, I'm not talking about lowering your standards because it isn't you're fulltime gig.
    I've been thinking about this for a while now, ever since I saw the 'covering your kid' thread. A lot of you know that I work in retail. That comes with working with high-school age kids. Some of these kids are multi-sport athletes.
    I've covered athletes that I've had ties to before since I my high school is in our coverage area. Kids I knew in high school, younger brothers and sisters of friends, kids who worked summers on the farm, stuff like that.
    Now I work with these kids as well as parents of talented athletes, and some of them are very good. I've only had two questionable incidents. I interviewed one of the girls because she's a goalie and she stopped a game-winning shot. The second time I mentioned the sons of a coworker who's defense changed the tempo of a game that eventually resulted in a win for the home team (I mentioned all five kids in the line-up change). Honestly, there was no favoritism but it is a little bit easier to interview the girl. But it's also easier interview someone you've talked to once or twice before.

    I also get really good tips from these kids, but I have to be careful about what I can use and I how I approach it with their coaches. Like last season when half of our best area football team came down with H1N1 three days before the district title. Or how a fight between a player and a coach over a nose piercing may escalate into a coach's dismissal.

    I've been accused of bias twice in my career, both had nothing to do with my fulltime job. Once was over the color of my jacket (really? I'm not freezing my ass off just because my warmest Jacket happens to be the color of your opponent coach). The second involved a heated rivalry between two softball teams when a game had to be rescheduled. An assistant coach accused me of favoring his opponents because I happened to talk to the opposing coach first. It was a tournament. The other team finished first. The athletic director apologized for his behavior. In weird twist tone of the pitchers ended up getting a job where I work a few months later.

    Anyway, I'm wondering what the opinions are on this. I've always said the only thing I favor in my writing is my pay check, but I'm curious to see what everyone else thinks.
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I really don't care what some oddball parent thinks of me. I get along with most people and they know I'm trying to do my job. Covering high schoolers is different from covering college kids or pros, despite what some people think.

    Why can't you use the stuff you get, or at least approach coaches about it? The H1N1 thing would have been a good story.
  3. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    I don't think any of that stuff is unethical. I've covered plenty of events where I knew kids on teams. I've covered a game my cousin played in (her school isn't in our coverage area).
    I don't look at the players as players. I see a jersey and a number. Sounds like you're doing the same, which is a good thing.
  4. bpoindexter

    bpoindexter Member

    I used to worry about "being the bigger person," walking away, ignoring them and/or being cool and trying to have an intelligent conversation so policies, rules and such could be explained. Now I see the troublemaking parents, the ones that cause these incidents, for what they are - worried only about their own stature, nevermind any of the other kids or even their own kid - and I tell them the way it is and don't care what they think.
  5. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    Only accused of bias twice? That's a slow week.
  6. novelist_wannabe

    novelist_wannabe Well-Known Member

    To me, the trouble with this situation comes when your main job imposes on the second job. Let's say there's a story about one of your coworkers, but to write it means, for whatever reason, you may face disciplinary action or just ostracism at the main job. So you don't write it. I'm in a similar situation to you FJ, and I've thought about it a lot. If there's a question, my approach would probably be to pass it on to a full-time reporter.
  7. farmerjerome

    farmerjerome Active Member

    Thanks for the advice. I guess I only feel weird when the kids give me these tips because they feel like they're talking to me as friends.

    Come to think of it, the biggest conflict of interest I've had involves a coach that coached two former employees and became famous for calling surprise mandatory meetings. The girls couldn't come in, so we were down people. It took every fiber of my being not to strangle her when I had to cover her teams. Losing two people on a busy night is murder in retail and the girls would get in trouble for calling in at the last minute. It put me in a really bad situation.
  8. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    OK, had an awkward situation last year, when I was asked to string a softball regional tournament game by the local paper (which I was already working as the official scorer) ... and I teach and coach another girls' sport at the school I was covering.

    I was the paper's SE a few years back, so the HC was actually happy to see me. The weird part was interviewing players after the game -- kids I'd had in class. I intentionally avoided the two players on the team that I had coached, even though I knew one would probably be the best quote. I heard one parent ask her daughter after the game, "Why was Mr. Crimsonace talking to you with a tape recorder after the game?"

    But I tried to handle it professionally and the people involved understood the situation. That's all you can do.

    Heck, I was accused more of bias when I was an SE than I have been as a stringer/broadcaster who actually works at one of the local schools.
  9. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    Yes, it sounds like you're just fine...you were bringing up kids who impacted the game. I always try to get quotes from the players, as well as the coaches, it makes for a more balanced story, and the players get excited to see themselves quoted.

    I get along with most parents, but you always get some crazies who are going to find a convenient vent for their misplaced frustration. I had the exact same "jacket" incident a couple years ago on a football sideline. Crazy. Yes, I'm wearing a blue coat because I'm a big fan of Podunk High...really???
  10. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    Believe it or not, the same parents give the same grief to coaches.

    Could care less about winning. All that matters is "does my kid get stats?" If so, then great. If not, then we're costing the kid a scholarship.
  11. Rosie

    Rosie Active Member

    You're fine, FJ.

    When I was an SE, I covered my kids' school. Just the way it is in a small town. Thankfully, by the time my son was on the football team, I had a very good reputation as fair and unbiased, so it wasn't an issue. Not an ideal situation at all, but when you are the only reporter on staff, you really have no choice in the matter.

    When it comes to HS kids, I always erred on the side of caution. There are those who might take me to task, but I can sleep knowing I did what I believe to be the right thing.
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