UPDATE 10:00 AM
FAMU journalism professor and former Tallahassee Democrat reporter Doug Blackburn has responded, via Facebook, to TR’s article about Mr. Blackburn being paid by FAMU while covering FAMU as a reporter.
“It is bizarre beyond words that Steve Stewart would have the gall to question my integrity as a journalist. I covered FSU and FAMU fairly, honestly and in-depth for six years. As for FAMU, I reported on the suspension of the Marching 100, sororities being placed on suspended status due to hazing charges, the abrupt resignation of a president, the university being placed on probation by SACS. Is this someone who was compromised in any way?”
It appears Mr. Blackburn is defending the payment arrangement based on his unbiased reporting.
Mr. Fred Brown, a former editor at the Denver Post and listed as an ethics expert by the Society for Professional Journalists, told TR that it is a “clear conflict of interest for a reporter to be paid by the institution he is covering.”
TR is still seeking comment from the Tallahassee Democrat and Gannett Corporation.
Tallahassee Reports has learned that while working as a reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat and covering Florida A&M University (FAMU), Doug Blackburn was also being paid by FAMU as an adjunct professor.
Public records obtained by TR indicates that Blackburn was paid $3,000 from September 23, 2011 to December 30,2011 and an additional $3,000 from September 19,2014 to December 24, 2014.
The public record can be viewed here.
Blackburn left the Tallahassee Democrat around January 16, 2015 and took a full time job with FAMU. He is currently listed on their website as an Associate Professor in the Journalism Department.
A review of the Tallahassee Democrat archives reveals Blackburn wrote or participated in writing 15 articles related to FAMU from September 23, 2011 to December 30, 2011 and another 15 articles from September 19, 2014 to December 24, 2014.
Since 2011, a search reveals Blackburn was involved with over 400 reports related to FAMU.
The Tallahassee Democrat is owned by Gannett Corporation. Gannett’s ethics policy, which was published in February, 2012 states in part:
Directors, officers and employees will not have any outside interest, investment or business relationship that dilutes their loyalty to the Company or dedication to the principle of a free and impartial press.
The policy also states:
Each director, officer and employee is expected to report what he or she believes in good faith are violations of the law or Company policy, whether accidental or deliberate, by any Gannett director, officer, employee or a person acting on behalf of Gannett. If you become aware of any conflict, relationship, payment or other action, involving yourself or others, which could violate these policies, it is your obligation to disclose the matter fully and in writing to your supervisors or as set forth in the Ethics Violation Reporting Policy.
The complete document can be read here.
Tallahassee Reports has sent an email seeking comment from the Tallahassee Democrat.
It is important to note the current publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat was hired by Gannett on January 12, 2015. Mr. Blackburn left the Democrat on January 16, 2015.
The Executive Editor at the Tallahassee Democrat during Mr. Blackburn’s employment was Bob Gabordi. He transferred to another Gannett paper as of January 12, 2015.