Sunday, March 23, 2014

Media: Washington Post's conflict of interest (Ava and C.I.)

The Washington Post has a written ethical code and it applies to all -- editors, reporters, columnists, free lancers, etc.

Which is why we were surprised last week to read "Without facts on the missing airliner, the media make stuff up."  The column, by Eugene Robinson, sported a title that implied the media would be taken on.

Now we're media critics and we encourage everyone who can be one to be one.

Eugene can't be one.

We've always known that and last week he proved it.

"Media" boiled down to CNN and Fox News.

He slammed Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper by name (both host programs on CNN).

Did no one see a problem with that?

At the end of paragraph five (most people stopped reading already, it's a poorly written column), Eugene Robinson slips in, "Full disclosure: I do commentary for MSNBC, a competing network that also is obsessed with the lost plane."

That's actually not full disclosure.  You do commentary?

What do you mean as a guest?

Eugene's a little more clear on his Twitter feed where he identifies himself with this, "I am the Washington Post columnist, MSNBC analyst and author. Washington, D.C."

An MSNBC analyst was allowed to use the pages and imprint of  The Washington Post to savage CNN and Fox News -- two networks that regularly beat out MSNBC.

Robinson didn't call out MSNBC, certainly didn't name Rachel Maddow or anyone else.

He is paid by The Washington Post -- as a columnist and editor -- to do his best work for the paper.  He is not paid by them to attack MSNBC's rivals.

The paper's ethics guidelines are very clear that there will be no conflicts of interests or even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

What Robinson did last week went beyond appearance.

It was an actual conflict of interest as he used The Washington Post to attack the two chief rivals of his other paid employer MSNBC.

As a Washington Post employee, he would have needed to have specifically called out MSNBC and include the disclosure that he is paid by MSNBC to avoid a conflict of interest.

Eugene Robinson needs to be suspended but as one editor with The Washington Post told us, "Editors never get real punishment.  They're fired or everyone looks the other way."

We'll assume that's the case at the paper.

But if Eugene not even going to get suspended for breaking the ethics code, he should at least be informed that he is no longer allowed to write about CNN or Fox in his column for the paper or the paper's website.

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