On his blog, George Rebane is defending his right to financially support the candidates and/or issues he writes about and not disclose them.
“In my recent pieces promoting the passage of Proposition 23 (for example here and here), I do not mention that the Rebanes have contributed to Congressman Tom McClintock’s campaign – TomM, Dan Logue, Doug LaMalfa, and many other conservative politicians are also vocal proponents of Prop 23.”
This includes columns that ran in The Union and on KVMR.
What George doesn’t understand is that media outlets have ethical guidelines that also apply to outside contributors like him, not just staffers.
Here’s what the New York Times ethics policy states:
“90. Staff members may not themselves give money to any political candidate or election cause or raise money for one. Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributions, any political giving by a staff member would risk feeding a false impression that we are taking sides.”
And how does that apply to outside contributors?
“136. Our audience applies exacting standards to all of our journalism. It does not normally distinguish between the work of staff members and that of outside freelancers. Thus as far as possible, freelance contributors to the Times Company’s journalism, while not its employees, should accept the same ethical standards as staff members as a condition of their assignments for us. If they violate these standards, they should be denied further assignments.”
“138. Assigning editors and producers who deal with nonstaff contributors should be aware that a freelancer’s previous involvements and professional behavior can prove an embarrassment. They should make every effort to insure that a freelancer has no history or ties that would raise a real or apparent conflict of interest on a particular assignment.”
I know The Union has its own set of ethics which staffers (including the publisher) are required to sign. I can’t speak for KVMR.
Though being a commentator should provide some leeway, when you title your commentary “Is Prop. 23 Relevant to Nevada County” it’s not immediately apparent that you’re coming at the topic with a bias rooted in ideology as well as a financial investment.
As you can see, the issue is not as “cut and dried” as George Rebane would lead you to believe. In the interest of transparency, you should always disclose as much as possible — as Steve Frisch did. It’s common sense.
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