It is possible there is nothing factually wrong with Spokesman-Review writer Betsy Russell’s Jan. 25 article regarding Idaho public television. But journalists who claim to be “objective” have an ethical obligation to denote conflicts of interest and even perceived conflicts of interest. And in the case of this particular story, a conflict exists … but wasn’t disclosed.
Russell is also president of the nonprofit Idahoans for Openness in Government. This nonprofit, like other nonprofits, has a board of directors. One of the directors is Peter Morrill, the affable general manager of Idaho public television. Russell’s story quotes extensively from Morrill, who, again, serves on Russell’s nonprofit board, according to records from the secretary of state’s office.
The Society of Professional Journalists says, in its code of ethics, that reporters should “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and should “disclose unavoidable conflicts.” Russell won’t, so we have.