A Question of Journalistic Ethics

Newspaper Guild President Bernie Lunzer questions a newspaper’s decision to seek corporate donations to fund a trip to Afghanistan.

Lunzer reports, “A financial arrangement between The New Hampshire Union Leader – the state’s largest daily newspaper – and several Granite State businesses that has allowed the paper’s publisher to report from Afghanistan is pushing the envelope of journalistic ethics and even has raised the eyebrows of some readers.”

The main concerns of Lunzer and readers that were cited is the fact that BAE Systems, a defense industry firm, helped sponsor the trip. Some readers see this as clearly a conflict of interest. They wonder if the UL can be trusted to report objectively while taking money from the defense industry.

The publisher who took the trip justified the acceptance of the donations on the basis that the newspaper has had layoffs, furloughs, and pay reductions and faces the same financial problems that other newspapers experience.  Without outside financial funding, they would be unable to report the story from Afghanistan.

“Traditionally, newspapers have been reluctant to accept such assistance, believing that it calls into question their journalistic objectivity. For that reason, at most papers reporters are not allowed to accept samples or thank-you gifts from those they cover.” says Lunzer.

The question is does the need to tell a story justify the means used to tell it?

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