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Owe nobody and make sure nobody owns you

Image courtesy of Alexis O'Toole and released under Creative Commons

Integrity scenario and question

You are a reporter on a small town newspaper and are covering a story about plans for a massive new leisure centre and hotel complex to be built locally.

You sense something is wrong when a local politician becomes an outspoken champion for the proposal, saying it will be good for business and for the fortunes of the town.

While investigating the story you find that the politician has close business connections with the owner of the hotel who submitted the planning application and with the developer who has drawn up the plans.

Two years ago, when the hotel was extended, you and a few of your friends accepted an invitation for a weekend break including free meals and unlimited fine wine. At the time you felt uneasy about accepting, but you decided to go ahead anyway and make the most of the free offer.

As soon as you start to ask questions about this proposed new development, both the hotel owner and the politician remind you of your earlier lapse in editorial judgement. What do you do?

a) talk to your editor, admit that you accepted hospitality from someone who could be part of an investigation and leave it to your editor to decide how the story is covered.

b) drop the story in order to protect your newspaper and hope that by keeping quite and not asking awkward questions your earlier involvement will not be revealed.

You can read our module Is your journalism ethical? Take the test before answering this question and then check your answer against our suggested response.

David BrewerThe author of this piece, David Brewer, is a journalist and media strategy consultant who founded Media Helping Media, handing the site over to Fojo in early 2018. David has worked as a journalist and manager in print, broadcast and online. He has spent many years delivering journalism training and media consultancy services worldwide.

This site has been given permission to use the BBC's Editorial Guidelines as part of these short modules which have been adapted and updated to reflect international, regional and cultural variation.

Image courtesy of Alexis O'Toole released under Creative Commons

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