February 21, 2019 10:49:55 AM
Newspaper employees are not a people apart. Like everyone else, we have families, friends, associations with groups and organizations and personal interests and hobbies.
Yet, in the performance of our duties, we must be careful not to allow our work to be compromised by those relationships.
In order to keep faith with readers, who expect the work of journalists to be fair, objective and uncompromised, there are a number of safeguards put in place. Reporters may excuse themselves from reporting on subjects where there is a potential that their objectivity might be clouded - or perceived to be clouded -- by our readers.
In other cases where the potential for being compromised is limited, the reporter's relationship with sources or entities are noted in print. Doing so allows the reader to weigh for himself to what degree -- if any -- that association influences the reporting.
There are times, however, when these safeguards may be misconstrued.
Recently, there have been a couple of examples where The Dispatch faced how to handle situations where the newspaper had a direct relationship with the subject of a story.
Wednesday, The Dispatch reported that Columbus company Burkhalter Rigging had filed for bankruptcy protection and cited some of its largest creditors, which could be as many as 999. In an editor's note, we also disclosed that Burkhalter Rigging had a past-due advertising bill with The Dispatch.
Although it was a small sum of money, The Dispatch felt obligated to include that information in the story, again on the basis of full disclosure.
But at least one reader seemed to perceive that disclosure as a dig at the company.
That was certainly not the intent. Our position is that including the information voluntarily was a forthright effort to inform readers of The Dispatch's financial relationship with the company, even though the magnitude was small.
Previously, on Feb. 13, we reported that our then-sports editor had been arrested on a charge of child exploitation.
In reporting the story, careful thought and discussion was given to how the story should be reported. Our goal was to balance reporting the details of the story in a way consistent with other similar stories with our obviously close ties to the arrested party. Typically, when someone in our community is arrested for a serious felony, we report details of the story. What is not generally reported is the name of the person's employer, unless the person is employed by a government entity, a community organization or if that employer is directly connected to the crime.
In this case, however, we reported that the man arrested was a Dispatch employee because we felt obligated to provide that information to the public. Not to do so would have undermined our relationship with the readers.
When The Dispatch and/or its employees are connected to a story, we believe that relationship should be disclosed, which allows readers to make up their own minds about the significance of that information.
There is never an ulterior motive.
We just thought you, the reader, should know.
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