Should journalists accept the Ross Munro award?

Canadian Press reporter Murray Brewster will be awarded the Ross Munro Media Award, sponsored by the Conference of Defence Associations and Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. Some journalists think he should refuse the offer.

The Ottawa Citizen‘s David Pugliese wrote a lengthy examination of the award and the ethical implications of accepting an award funded by the very companies and government bodies that you’re covering. He notes that every year, protesters show up to the awards. He himself has refused nomination twice.

The writer presents a few ethical questions:

“Should journalists who report on DND take an award and money from an organization that is partly financed by DND?

“Some journalists who have accepted the Ross Munro Award in the past have regularly quoted analysts from both the CDA or the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. Is this right, particularly considering that DND’s funding deal with the CDA requires a specific number of mentions of the organization. What type of message does this send to the reading/listening/viewing public?

“Some journalists who have accepted the Ross Munro Award have continued to quote CDA and CDFAI analysts in their articles and have not mentioned the fact that they accepted money/an award from these same organizations. Is this right?”

Pugliese provides a long list of events sponsors, mostly military firms, and notes that “All of these are major players in the industry and any journalist who reports regularly on defence and the military in this country could or will be writing about these firms. Should journalists accept the hospitality and sponsorship of the same military industry companies that they write about?”

Pugliese spoke with Brewster, who intends to keep accept the Ross Munro Media Award. Pugliese notes that “He says he intends to divide the $2,500 cash prize money among the Michelle Lang fellowship, the Military Families Fund, the Soldier On Fund and a human rights group. Here is his statement: “No one has ever had occasion to question my integrity, tenacity or impartiality in any story to which I’ve put my name; nor will they have occasion in the future. My work speaks for itself.””

In the article’s comment section (worth reading in its entirety), Publiese calls out journalists that once complained about the award but later accepted them. He explains why he twice turned down the nomination for the award:

“My reasons are simple; my view is that there is a perception of conflict of interest, in not an outright conflict on interest, to accept an award from organizations that receive funding from the Defence Department and/or the defence industries that I report on”