July 12, 2009 Archives
You can [get intimate with] an elephant if you want to, but if you do you can't cover the circus. -- The (Abe) Rosenthal Rule
A conflict of interest arises when someone who is
expected to act impartially has a personal stake in an issue (emotional, financial,
etc.). In every case, a conflict of interest is a real problem -- even if nobody misbehaves.
Thus, a lawyer who has defended a client in the past cannot be hired to prosecute that same client; a surgeon should not operate on a family member, and a reporter should not cover any news story in which he or she has a personal involvement.
It's still a problem even if nobody misbehaves and nobody means any harm.
Like other forms of journalism, an editorial uses quotes, facts, and logic to inform readers, and its content is still covered by ethical principles (see "libel" and "privacy"). Unlike most journalism, an editorial presents an opinion, which means advocating one solution over the solution offered by your political opponents.
Opinions that the editors express on the editorial page should stay there -- they should not affect the news coverage (see "objectivity"). Individual reporters shouldn't slant their stories to reflect or rebut editorial opinions.