Friday, July 07, 2006

The Importance of Integrity

The industry that I write about is embroiled in a bit of a controversy. People have taken sides, they've planted their flags, they've drawn lines. Friendships and partnerships have broken up. Opinions range from the Mildly Irritated to Panties Firmly in Wad.

And - lucky me - I get to write about it.

The thing is, I am not sure if I truly care. It doesn't really affect me since I write about the industry and currently don't really participate in the industry. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing.

Sure, I have my opinions and they lean towards one side of the argument. And I'm certain that there are cracked pots on both sides of the debate. But ultimately, this boils doing to a handful of people who are just Mad, Mad, Mad and they are doing everything they can to discredit People On The Other Side.

So what else is new... do you even need to know what industry I'm talking about? No, not really. It's the same thing that happens any time there's political strife. I could be speaking about the War in Iraq, the Mac vs PC Debate, the Universal Child Care Solution in Canada.

The important thing to remember when covering debates like this is that no matter what side you are on, you must maintain your integrity. Integrity is defined as "steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code."

I work hard to report in a fair and balanced fashion. That's part of my ethical code. I've also learned the hard way that as soon as I put out a heavily opinionated piece that the fates will intervene and I'll start to consider the other side of the situation.

In fact, no matter what I feel passionately about - I believe that fair and balanced reporting is the way to go.

Take, for example, the recent breastfeeding campaigns appearing on televisions around the United States. They are a little bit overpowering. A pregnant woman getting bucked off of a mechanical bull and the lines "If you wouldn't take risks before your baby was born, why start now?"

That's not really fair or balanced. I happen to be passionately FOR breastfeeding, but not at the expense of fair and balanced reporting. I prefer to give people the information and have them make up their own mind. I am not responsible for their opinion, but I am responsible for what I write.

Recently, with this industry I write about, I interviewed someone in charge a particular event. I have covered this yearly event for three years now and each time I interview him or the person in his position. This year I asked the same questions and put his quote in the article. That was over a month ago. Today he emailed me with concerns that his quote would be used for the side he's against. "They tell me that this interview on my cell phone was used as a support mechanism for the ... fiasco that is going on this year."

I responded to thank him for his concern and to state that I preferred to keep the politics out of the event coverage pieces I write as people simply want to know how the event went, not the turmoil behind it. I replied with his quote in the context of the paragraph and stated "as you can see, your quote was taken verbatim and was not used for one side or another, it merely stated the facts as you had done."

I haven't heard back yet.

I admit that it irritated me. I know for a fact that I did not solicit an opinion for one side or another. I did not ask my questions in a biased fashion and I most certainly did not manipulate his quote for one side or another. Thankfully I have an editor at this publication who I am confident would take my word for it. I've written for them for over three years and have never had anyone question my integrity. But if others have interpreted his quote as for one side or another, there is nothing much I can do about it.

More importantly, I know - deep down - that I quoted him accurately. I know my integrity is intact, I know that I am comfortable looking at myself in the mirror because I am steadfastly adhering to my own moral and ethical code.

And that will help me weather any storm that comes my way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Because I know how passionate you can be about positions you support... or don't, I admire your ability to step back and view the other side. K-