Business journalism ethics again, and this time it stinks

Since I wrote about business journalism ethics last week, quite a lively debate has ensued around the topic. A report today by Business Day’s Michael Bleby reveals an astonishing fact: one the country’s two business dailies, Business Report,has no code of ethics for for business journalism, and the other, Business Day, has one but doesn’t enforce it. In comparison,’s policy of disclosing its journalists’ financial interests – while not guaranteed to eliminate conflicts of interests – seems a paragon.

It is all well enough to argue that your newspaper has a particular “ethos” that encourages ethical behaviour, as Business Day’s head of training Paddi Clay does. But as a reader, I’d like to know where I stand. An ethos doesn’t do it for me.

How can I ever trust a stock tip in either of those newspapers if I have no way of knowing whether the reporter is talking his book? And what would the editor of Business Report do if his journalists punted stocks they owned? He has no policy against it.


5 Responses to Business journalism ethics again, and this time it stinks

  1. Peter van der Merwe says:

    Speaking of business journalism ethics … you probably know about the Standard Bank event in Johannesburg this week, where four journalists won R10 000 each in a lucky draw … of course, this will have no bearing on the way they report on the bank’s activities in future.

  2. Robert says:

    Hi Peter – the smell seems to be getting stronger. They didn’t work for Bloomberg, or they’d have got their asses fired. How do local media organisations het away with this?

  3. Marc Ashton says:

    No comment but for the record I don’t think cracked an invite to the Standard Bank awards… despite their journos writing nice stories about Standard Bank or using our pittance of a salary to invest in their bank….

  4. Robert says:

    Marc – which makes even more of a paragon in this cesspool of ethical murk….

  5. brettbum says:

    I’m no journalist and do not want to be labeled as such. I’m a blogger, more in the spirit of being a philosopher and thinking out loud or debating a topic from multiple perspectives, letting my subjectivity hang out as it will.

    That said, I think almost no journalist or blogger that wants to be a journalist can really disclose ‘everything’ that might impact their objectivity. Its just not possible.

    But I do think that technology can help make it easier for all writers to keep profiles that make it easy for their readers to learn about their connections both to investments, as well as advertisers, personal connections and more.

    I think a bar for journalists needs to be high, but we also need to recognize that in the information age, every little minute Kevin Bacon connection can be spun from a mole hill into a mountain. People have to consider their sources, but lets not forget the merits of the message too. Readers have to learn to balance things out, and writing just can not be effective if it is sterilized for the lowest common denominator.

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