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Conflicts of Interest vs. Being A Good Marketer

by on October 24, 2014

With the topic of conflicts of interest this week, I can’t help but think of situations where I have been skeptical of a specific decision that I had to make because something seemed “off” because of a possible conflict of interest. My best friend’s mom has a cookie business, and it is becoming a hot commodity in my friend’s hometown. Her mom is good friends with one of the news reporters on Fox 25 News, as they attend the same gym and see each other a couple of times a week. My friend’s mom has been friends with the reporter since before the cookie business took off, and when it started to become successful, the news reporter offered to help her with marketing her brand to her audience on Twitter

Being a marketing and journalism double major, I personally thought this was a great idea, and I offered to help get my friend’s mom started on Twitter with her cookie business so that she could interact with the reporter. While I was doing this, I thought how great it would be that the reporter was offering to help my friend’s mom with her business, but this was way before I had taken Journalism Ethics.

While speaking this week about Conflicts of Interest, I have began to wonder about the differences between being a good marketer and going so far as to have something be a conflict of interest. Is the news reporter simply helping my friend’s mom market her business, or is there a potential conflict of interest issue here? How far can a journalist go to help someone (a friend) market a business before they become a conflict of interest? Of course, if the news reporter decides to do a story about the business, this would be considered a conflict of interest, but other than that, how far can this go?

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One Comment
  1. You bring up some really good points about conflict of interest and how much power we have as the media. As journalists, we can easily talk to a friend with a new business, promote them through our news outlet and watch their business boom. It seems harmless, but is it ethical? I think if as a journalist, you offer to write the story about the friend’s business yourself, interview her yourself, but never disclose you are her friend, then that’s crossing the line. An ethical way to handle this would be to determine whether or not you actually think the cookie business story is newsworthy. If it is, pitch it to someone else to write. You might find creative story ideas through friends or people you know, but that doesn’t mean you should be writing about your personal connection in the newspaper. Conflict of interest like this may seem harmless, at first, but after taking this class, you know its just plain wrong.

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