Avoiding real and perceived conflicts of interest

Avoiding conflicts of interest — both real and perceived — has always been important in journalism ethics because they can cause readers to “question the integrity of the journalists work,” writes Toronto Star public editor Kathy English.

In a recent column, “Full disclosure for journalists,” English addresses two specific reader complaints she received at the Star. Both were related to perceived conflicts of interest.

After reviewing both cases, English concluded that the reports in question were not distorted in order to further the interests of the journalist, but she added:

“…in both situations, it seems to me that these journalists did not fully consider the imperative to avoid even the perception of a conflict by either stepping away from the assignment or disclosing to readers any facts that might lead to the perception of a conflict.”

Read the full column here for English’s explanation of both complaints.

Her conclusion:

“Journalists are people, parents and participants in own communities, but our privileged positions demand that we remain alert to any situations that could create a real or perceived conflict of interest. And when in doubt, it’s always preferable to disclose.”