WIUM Tristates Public Radio

The Gift of Being Ethical

Dec 22, 2015

It's the season of gift giving, so the Shop Talk crew discusses whether it's appropriate for reporters to accept gifts from the people they cover.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said many journalism organizations, such as the Society of Professional Journalists, have a Code of Ethics, and those documents state reporters should refuse gifts.  But she said new outlets don’t always follow such codes.

Crighton said she worked in a newsroom that allowed reporters to receive gifts worth up to $25.  And she worked at place where advertisers constantly brought in freebies, hoping to receive a mention on the air.

Panelist Jonathan Ahl said in a pure world, journalists should not accept anything of value.  He said it can sometimes be difficult to decline a small token without coming across as a jerk, but it’s safest to not accept anything. He said even a little influence on a story is too much.

Panelist Rich Egger said if a reporter can be bribed or swayed by a cookie or free lunch, he/she might be in the wrong business.  But even those who can’t be influenced should be careful about accepting freebies because of the appearance of impropriety.