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Stringer who is a selectman

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Smallpotatoes, Aug 26, 2008.

  1. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    This afternoon, I had a discussion with our photo editor about a stringer who has worked for me for as long as I've been here (and he was writing for the paper even before I arrived). He thinks I should get rid of him.
    The reason is that he's on the town's board of selectmen. He has been for a year. The guy also used to write a column in the news section but gave it up because of the conflict.
    The photo editor thinks that having this guy write about high school football is a conflict of interest. I disagree. If he were writing about politics, I'd agree, but I don't see how covering a high school football team could be a conflict.
    I'll admit, too, that part of the reason I don't want to get rid of him is because of how difficult it could be to replace him. I had another stringer leave two years ago (a guy who covered one of the better football teams in this part of the state) and I still haven't been able to replace him.
    The guy is a good stringer. He's dependable, accurate and a good writer. Not too much of a homer in print. I see no reason to get rid of him. He's writing about sports, not politics. How could there be a conflict of interest?
  2. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    i don't see a conflict and i certainly don't see where the photo editor should even be chiming in.
  3. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    Well the guy is kind of a stickler for "standards" and "competence" even if those things get in the way of actually getting things done.
  4. RedSmithClone

    RedSmithClone Active Member

    I agree with you.

    Of course this group may not agree. Afterall, they did tell me I shouldn't accept the role of campaign manager for a city council candidate in another state (my hometown) that is 25 miles out of our coverage area.

    We'll see what others say.
  5. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    Do what you think is right.

    Personally, I am unsure about a selectman working for a paper that covers him.

    That said, he strings high school football.
  6. Matt1735

    Matt1735 Well-Known Member

    As long as he understands that being a stringer does not grant him access to the newsroom nor does it grant him any special favor when it comes to his being reported on... i have no problem with it. If anyone thinks they couldn't be fair in writing about him because of his status as a long-time stringer, then it's gotta be a no.
  7. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    I think there's a HUGE difference between a full-time writer/editor serving as a campaign manager, even outside of his coverage area, and the town selectman stringing high school football on Friday nights.
  8. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    If he were a full-timer that would be one thing. If he were writing about politics, that would be one thing. I asked the photo editor why the guy shouldn't be writing about high school football and he said "Well, he's a part of the town government. If the team sucks, could you count on him to report that the team sucks?"
    I could count on him to report about what happened accurately. I've never had that problem with him.
    To me, what matters more in this case is the practical issue of finding a replacement, especially so close to the start of the season. It's not as if people are lined up around the block to string for these papers. It would just be more work I'd have to do myself.
    Maybe that shouldn't matter more to me than whatever ethical issues there might be, but in this case, it does.
    Standards are great, but they shouldn't force you to work with one hand tied behind your back.
  9. Cameron Frye

    Cameron Frye Member

    I don't really have a problem with this guy stringing football gamers, but I could not disagree with this statement more. If your standards change because you don't want to create more work for yourself, they aren't standards at all.
  10. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    The point I'm trying to make is that sometimes practical concerns matter more. Unless there's a really good reason, I'm not going to get rid of a guy whom I'm not likely to be able to replace.
  11. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    The problem, if there is one, isn't with the reality. It's with perception.

    Let's say this guy gets into some controversial situation in his position on the board. Even though you would be up front with your readers about what he does for the paper (and you would be, I assume), there's still an opening for those who would question the neutrality and fairness of your coverage. You also run the risk of, should that situation arise, the coverage of him actually being <b> tougher </b> than it might otherwise have been, because of concerns about perception.

    All that said, though, I really think the only ones who would raise a concern about it would be the gadflies who would criticize your coverage with a valid reason or without one.

    Getting rid of his news-section column was a good move. I don't see a reason to stop using him as a stringer, as long as there are no problems with his fairness, etc. I'm guessing it's just one town? The only suggestion I might have is if there's more than one town with schools that you cover, send him to one of the other towns. If it's a little further, you can always slip him an extra 10 bucks to cover gas, if need be.
  12. I Digress

    I Digress Guest

    I'd keep him.
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