A MinD in MoTown

To publish or not to publish? That is the question.
May 27, 2008, 6:56 pm
Filed under: News Girl

When a newspaper is the source of the news, should it publish its own story or leave the reporting to another entity?

I’ve been thinking about this question for a better part of the day because the good ole’ Tribune has become the center of a news story – the details of which I shall not say, but will become public information in the days to come.

Regardless, when the entire newspaper is involved, does reporting the story become a conflict of interest? Or is that designation specifically for an individual and not the paper as a whole? Perhaps we’ve found a grey area…

If I were to report on a topic and then become personally invested, I could no longer discuss the issue because it is believed I would be unbiased toward the subject. Whether or not I or any other journalist would lose their bias, however, is debateable, but the “conflict of interest” measure remains in place to prevent that from happening. This is a core belief of journalism ethics.

But when the newspaper as a business is at issue – something occurs at the newspaper, the newspaper acts in a certain manner, etc. – do the same rules apply? Should we avoid publishing the information because readers would see it as a conflict of interest, or should we print the news because it is just that … news.

Pushing the conflict of interest issue asside, let me explain a little, although I’m going to be vague: Something occurred here at the Tribune that puts us at the center of a likely important news story. If it was another local business in our place, it is my opinion that this occurrence would have been a top priority going to print with our Wednesday edition. However, I think there is some reluctance to publicly announce the information – perhaps because of a conflict of interest, perhaps because of something else … I cannot be sure either way. I’m also on the fence as to whether or not – disregarding the conflict of interest issue – we should print the information anyway.

Why? Well, because if we do print the information, more questions may arise from readers. An audience usually wants to know more than what they are provided with, regardless of the topic. And as the subject, one they regularly turn to for answers concerning other matters, they would turn to us believing we’d adequately respond with their desired requests. That places a heavy burden on our paper then.

On the other hand, if another paper prints the information, then the public will question our motives behind not publishing first – and the core of that argument will be, and I can almost guarantee this, that we have something to hide, which concerning this particular issue simply is not true. But truth, unfortunately, will matter very little because a person’s initial assumption will always be that we wanted part of the story to remain concealed.

So should we or shouldn’t we publish “our” news? That, too, does not matter because our Wednesday edition will not feature said topic. I believe a fellow Tribune reporter is working on it for Friday, but will it be too late by then? Will another local newspaper/television station get wind of this story and run with it, unlike us? What questions will arise come May 30, or sooner? I guess we’ll find out.

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