[Yak] Re: Degree vs. Kind
John S. Allen
jsallen at bikexprt.com
Sat Sep 3 22:26:03 CDT 2005
At 03:20 PM 9/3/2005, Dante Lanzetta wrote:
>The "nice" distinction between $100 cash, $100 credit, $100 potentially
>unclaimed which Larry suggests is hair-splitting. Every time I've seen a
>public official crossing the line into unethical behavior, I've heard
>rationalizations like this. Again, that's just a matter of degree; it's
>still unethical. Again, it happens all the time. Again, it's still wrong.
Well, this is a little different. This is an issue of journalistic ethics,
not political ethics.
It is common and often unavoidable for people who write to have personal or
business connections with those they write about. Those connections may
provide the journalist with special insights which would not occur to a
person who stays at arms length. The usual way around this is full
disclosure, as in "I must make it clear that I am a Bike Friday owner and
that Bike Friday has provided some small compensation for my time."
Actually, I can't imagine the Times publishing an article in which the
*writer* is compensated by the manufacturer of the product being reviewed,
and would have to make such a disclaimer. In fact, from the discussion up
to this point, it doesn't seem that the BF owner will be doing any of the
writing. If the BF owner is merely bringing the bike and being interviewed,
then there is nothing inappropriate in the owner's being compensated by BF
for this -- and so being to some degree a representative of BF -- as long
as it is disclosed to the interviewer. There is nothing inappropriate about
the newspaper's publishing the interview as long as the owner's
relationship with Bike Friday is disclosed. The media often have to depend
on manufacturers to provide information about their products, or even to
provide the products for review. All the better, though, if owners of other
brands of bikes are bringing them to the project.
I have had to deal with this issue for decades as a writer about bicycling.
Example: I co-authored an article in 1982 for Bicycling Magazine on the
same topic *exactly* -- 5 folding bicycles -- then Montague, Dahon,
Brompton, Bridgestone and Moulton. All of the bicycles were provided on
loan by the manufacturers. I had personal contact with Harry Montague
before writing the article. Was I fair nonetheless? I think so. My own
reputation as a journalist was at stake, after all.
Hmm, I wonder whether someone at the Times remembered or found the
Bicycling article and ought to be disclosing the inspiration for its
I will have to deal with a similar issue myself next week. I will take
delivery of my NWT in Eugene. I will then be a guest of Green Gear as well
as a customer. Would I turn down the opportunity to see the company from up
close and inside? Not a chance. Would I disclose the circumstances of my
visit if I ever write about it or a related topic for publication? Sure.
See, I just did, already!
John S. Allen
jsallen *at* bikexprt.com (replace " *at* " with "@")
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