Thursday, August 28, 2003

Conflicts and ethics. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Boston Globe's decision to pull one of its freelancers, Gail Spector, out of Newton. Spector had been covering the Newton school system for the Globe West section even though she served on the state-mandated advisory council of her child's elementary school.

It was an open-and-shut case. Unfortunately, Spector -- who I'm sure is a nice person who was trying to do a good job -- still doesn't get it. In the current Newton Tab, she gives her side of the story, attributing her demise to "a three-year vendetta" by the conservative Newton Taxpayers Association. She writes:

Questioning my ethics -- particularly for being an involved parent -- is a dirty tactic. My integrity is what I am and it's what's made me a successful reporter. I was, and still am, a fair, honest journalist, and I am proud of my work.

Come, now. Spector wasn't questioned for being an "involved parent." She was questioned for serving in the very same government that she was supposed to be covering. Here's a section from the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics:

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

Journalists should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

Spector also writes, "I would have resigned but the editor who hired me thought it was unnecessary." If that's true, then the Globe ought to schedule a seminar in Ethics 101 as soon as possible.

It is unfortunate that this lapse of judgment has handed a victory to an anti-school group whose leaders include Brian Camenker, a homophobic crank. But as the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Camenker is right rather less often than that. But he's right in this case.

New in this week's Phoenix. Joe Conason's new book, Big Lies, is the latest sign that liberals are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore.

Also, the Globe deletes a crucial paragraph -- and makes a state rep look like a vengeance-seeking monster. And the BBC engages in a mind-blowing bit of Israel-bashing.

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