The Spokesman-Review : interns

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sasha Davis: Ethics and Gifts

Going on assignment can bring many opportunities for free items. Recently, I have been doing video for various news stories, and while I’m out on interviews it seems like someone is always offering something.
Last week, I went to Silverwood Theme Park to get some video for reporter Jared Paben’s story on the park’s economical impact. After our guided tour by the director of marketing, we were offered free t-shirts and rides. Although she was insistent, we politely declined and explained our policy. In Cheney, a local tavern owner I was interviewing offered to buy lunch. I think he felt a little insulted that I declined, but I explained the situation. It is important to have these policies to keep news free of outside influence. The Spokesman Review’s code of ethics states, “Gifts of significant value, meals, cars or use of cars, liquor, beer, wine, tickets and lodging will not be accepted or solicited, unless they are for review purposes.”
Yesterday, I was interviewing a 69-year-old Australian man. As he entered the room with great excitement, he handed me a little koala bear toy. I set it down on the table hoping to “forget” it after the interview was over. After hearing his inspirational story containing medical problems and finding purpose and hope in a rescued dog, I walked to my car empty handed. However, as the car started, the man ran out and knocked on my window saying, “You can’t forget your bear lass.” I took the bear and thanked him. It would have been uncomfortable to say no.
The Spokesman’s ethics code also states, “Gifts of insignificant value- Key chains, calendars, small food items, pens- may be kept if it is awkward to return them.” I think this situation fits this category. If you are not sure what the difference between a significant and insignificant gift is, just ask your editor. It seems pretty clear, but it is always better to ask if you are unsure.


  • Sasha,
    Sounds like you handled it just right. And, as you've discovered, many people outside the trade just don't get it. You may enjoy this item from the Tampa Tribune's newsroom ethics policy:
    "We lunch with millionaires but can't let them pick up the check."

    By Anonymous Doug Floyd, editorial page editor, at 2:45 PM  

  • I agree with Doug. Sounds like you did the right thing.

    By Blogger Ken, at 4:37 PM  

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