Rachel Howard: NID series was pseudo-journalism
March 8, 2018
I agree with letter writer George M. Olive III that it is ethically problematic for The Union to run front-page stories on the Sierra snowpack when those stories were penned by a consultant paid by the NID.
The unstated intent of those articles was clearly to persuade the public to support the dam, but they were presented under the guise of news, even if the article's source was disclosed.
An editor's note justified this decision by arguing "Knowledge that advocacy groups actively oppose the dam does not preclude consideration of submissions from them, either." This is a strange statement in itself, but also ignores a major ethical lapse. If the dam's opponents do not have the money to pay a skilled freelance writer, as the NID did, the opponents will be greatly disadvantaged in presenting the "news" from their side. The unbiased staff news writer may be a journalistic ideal, but it is an ideal worth upholding.
In the interest of full disclosure, I personally have no opinion or agenda regarding the dam at stake, only a concern for the health of journalism. With all respect and gratitude to The Union for its role as public square, I would rather see balanced investigative reporting by paid staff writers than pseudo-journalism by writers with obvious conflicts of interest.
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