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Monday, Apr 2, 2007
by Edward Wasserman - McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Sometimes a newsroom conflict of interest is as unmistakable as a pimple on prom night.


Consider a financial writer praising a company whose stock she owns or a real-estate reporter hyping a neighborhood where he has land. There, the journalists’ private interest in telling certain things certain ways can’t help but clash with a professional duty to serve the public with clean hands.


But you often hear talk about conflicts of interest when the activities involved don’t clearly influence the journalism, and which may be nettlesome largely because employers abhor criticism. Why shouldn’t a sports reporter donate to a mayoral candidate? Even if it’s condemned as a “perceived” conflict of interest, is it really a threat to honest sports coverage—or an image problem for the newspaper?


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Sunday, Apr 1, 2007

Frontline’s recent special, News War, offered a few unintentionally poignant moments. One was seeing veteran reporter Lowell Bergman, in Part III, stumbling around in search of answers to the question, what happened to journalism? (This from the man behind The Insider?)


The answers Bergman found were pretty old hat for many of us: YouTube, Jon Stewart, bloggers and the like. Even Bergman’s finding that young people get their news from The Daily Show is played out at this point. In this regard, News War not only documented but also demonstrated the pitfalls of old-school journalism.


The end of the program featured a fairly downbeat discussion on the death of newspapers, using the Los Angeles Times as a case study. The interview with the publishing exec from the Tribune Company (the Times owners) smugly defending cutback after cutback angered even Internet enthusiasts like me. Newspapers alone cover schools, taxes, local governments, community conflicts, etc. They need to survive or, in a more likely scenario, bring their best practices to the Internet.


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