Monday, December 12, 2005

A matter of transparency?

A rather innocuous item in my morning paper caught my eye. It was announcing the latest graduates of the Lexington County (S.C.) Public Safety Citizens Academy. According to the item, "The participants received 49 hours of in-depth training about law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service operations, They also received training in basic life-saving skills and basic fire-prevention skills. ...
This year's class includes West Columbia residents Adam Beam, James Gillespie," etc.

Only Adam Beam (assuming it's the same one) is a former student of mine and now a police reporter for this paper.

So some questions: While not a major ethics matter in my mind, for the sake of transparency should the paper have noted one of its police reporters took the course? Should he, since he is likely to have special access to the police, have taken the course, thereby depriving someone else of the opportunity?

On the other hand, it is a course for which everyone can apply, so the argument can be made that it's better to have your reporter taking one of those than getting his or her own special course from the police and fire departments.

What do you think?

(Adam's getting the full monty of this buisness. His blog notes that because of budget cutbacks (it's a K-R paper), he's gone from full-time police reporter to local courts three days a week and night cops twice a week. And with an occasional council meeting thrown in, apparently, according to his blog.)


At 12/12/05, 10:56 PM, Blogger Super Reporter said...

Yeah, I offered to give The State an exclusive interview, but they declined. I guess I'll go to WIS now.

At 12/13/05, 9:14 PM, Blogger fev said...

Hmm. I'd offer that whether the paper needs to identify Alex (hi, Alex!) depends in part on how the announcement appeared. If it was along the lines of a typical graduation announcement, I wouldn't consider pointing out the connection very urgent. If he'd spent a week at API, there'd be no need to announce that, and we'd trust the benefits for paper, cops and readers would be positive too.

To (*ahem*) put the normative hat on for a minute, as a longtime K-R hand, I'd say the one who owes the readership a bit of transparency is Tony Ridder or whoever's hauling water for him onsite. Let's have an explanation for the public-service values implicit in expecting one reporter to cover two beats on two different shifts.


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