On Wednesday TR published public records that indicated Tallahassee Democrat reporter Doug Blackburn was paid by FAMU while he was covering FAMU as a Tallahassee Democrat reporter.
The full story can found here.
Gannet Company, owner of the Tallahassee Democrat, responded to TR’s request for comment through their Ethics Officer, Barbara Wall.
Ms. Wall said in an email that “the editor who approved his acceptance of a teaching position at FAMU felt that his employment would be consistent with the ethics policy.”
The editor at the time was Bob Gabordi.
Ms. Wall also wrote that “teaching future journalists is not considered to be in conflict with that principle of our ethics policy.”
TR also reached out to a number of sources in an effort to provide an independent perspective on this issue.
Fred Brown, the former editor at the Denver Post for over 20 years and listed on the Society of Professional Journalist website as an ethics expert, told TR that it is “a clear conflict of interest for a reporter to cover an institution he is being paid by.” He said as an editor he would have never let it happen.
TR contacted The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin via email and asked under what situation, if any, would it be allowable for a full time newspaper print reporter to work part-time and be paid by an institution he or she is covering?
Dave Wilcox, a Project Manager at the University replied “at face value, it would be considered problematic at best for an arrangement like this to be in place. That, of course, is a generalization and situations vary. At the very least, the connection should be made totally transparent to the reader through some kind of prominent and repetitive editor’s note.”