The personal interest of a journalist

The personal interest of a journalist

Journalists should always adopt the stance of “first the public interest, then the institution’s interest, then personal interest.” The main function of journalism is to defend the interest of the entire society, the entire public. 

This function is the reason why journalists are sometimes called the “public watchdog.” Other definitions such as the “watchdog of the truth” and the “watchdog of democracy” are also sometimes used, but they all mean the same thing: They all emphasize that “public benefit” should come before anything else for journalists. When writing a story, the first question to ask is whether there is a public benefit in the writing of this. The answer determines a story’s newsworthiness. 

When a journalist is writing a story or an opinion piece, if they are in a situation to protect their own personal interests or the interests of a particular group, person or an institution other than the public interest, then a “conflict of interest” arises. For this reason, a journalist should not be in a position demanding protection of any interest other than the public interest. 

If a journalist has another job, or is in a material relationship with another company, club, organization or group, it is problematic. The journalist then may fall into the dilemma of protecting the public interest or the place/person they share an interest relationship with. Even if the journalist does not have a dilemma, the slightest doubt that his/her editorial decision has been affected can be regarded as a conflict of interest.
Unfortunately, the necessary care is not shown in the Turkish media to prevent conflicts of interest. Several dual positions that create or have the potential to create conflict of interests are accepted as normal. This is one of the reasons why the reputation of journalism is eroding. 

For example, if a writer or reporter is at the same time an artist, and if they write about fellow artists and companies they are in a business relationship with, then a conflict of interest arises. 

Another example would be if a writer or a reporter is paid to participate in a panel, presentation or talk. If the journalist writes about the event, then again one could talk about a conflict of interest. 

The same goes for journalists who also work as DJs, write music, are paid to attend events, own companies, are professional sports club administrators, or are in promotional relationships with commercial institutions. The same goes for sports writers who report for other mediums, art writers who have commercial interests, fashion writers who are advisors, and journalists who own websites. 

In principle, journalists should not be involved in any of these affairs. If they have such a second job, its best is for them not to write about these jobs. Conflicts of interest can only be avoided in such cases. 

Journalists should be keenly aware of conflicts of interest in order to protect their institutional and personal reputation and credibility. Let me cite this example: In Anglo-Saxon journalism, the criticism of a book that a journalist has authored should not be written by a close friend, out of concerns that it may create a conflict of interest. 

In short, journalism should not get mixed up in the business of “second jobs.”