Free-Floating Hostility

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Is My Free Ride Ending?

A study conducted by Penn State reveals the startling news that sportswriters often accept gifts, travel and other trinkets from teams they cover that ultimately compromise their journalistic standards. It's to argue against this. My trip to spring training was actually a junket that was covered by the minor league team in town, which is a serious lapse in journalistic ethics. I was just the reporter assigned to the trip. I didn't ask for it.

The story has me thinking about how I spend my days. I accept the free food in press areas because that is accepted practice within the industry, though some teams are starting to charge. Most free things I get I try to give away, even media guides (If you want an NBA guide just ask) once I don't need them any more. It's just a strange sort of thought process because someone looking from the outside who didn't know me, might think I was totally corrupt. But I think I'm tough on the people I cover and that I don't let relationships get in the way of what I put in print. It's a tough issue for me.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at May 12, 2005 7:52 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I think it would be totally unfair to not allow the teams feed the writers, considering how much incentive there is to hyberbolically criticize teams.

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at May 13, 2005 3:29 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • The conflict of interest issue should be defined by the employee's employer's policy and, in some cases, by law. For example, it is a felony for a labor union official to accept "anything of value" from management or a vendor, with no de minimus exception. Governmental agencies [for example, OSHA] typically allow some de minimus exception. Corporations vary. [Bribery of purchasing agents is a major issue; the christmas gift from vendors may be a calendar or a boombox.] Typically, coffee and donuts on management's premises are ok, meals off premises should be home and home with equal value, and lunch on management's premises are a grey area.

    BD imagines newspapers may have one policy for tickets for drama critics, another for restaurant critics [who have to buy because they are supposed to be anonymous], and a third for sports reporters. For sports, does the paper buy tickets, or does the paper get a pass which provides better seats and access than a normal fan could get?

    BD would that the spring training "junket" described in the main post is a payment by the team to the newspaper to gain coverage which promotes the team. The food in the press box is an amenity the team provides to keep reporters on site to enhance coverage of the team, which is promotion; arguably this is another payment by the team to the newspaper, which otherwise would have to develop a reimbursement policy for reporters.

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