NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard has a new Ombdusversation on the ethics of a journalist participating in a gay pride parade. It’s a great format that includes a number of talking heads–including NLGJA’s president David Steinberg–discussing the ethics of marching in a gay pride parade. The issue was spurred by a question raised by NPR editor Jason DeRose.
The consensus appears to be that participating in a gay pride event is likely to be fine as long as (a) the event is not overtly political and (b) it does not conflict with your employer’s conflict of interest policy. Steinberg suggested that the proper balance would be not marching with a political cause, but instead with square dance group, your employer, or a business group. But there is not unanimity.
Senior business editor Marilyn Geewax suggested that a journalist probably should not participate in a gay pride parade–especially where there is a hot political issue like Prop 8 in California–because of the risk of the event being perceived as too political. NPR’s Senior VP for News Ellen Weiss added that, for NPR, she reminded journalists that anything they do personally and in public will be viewed as being done be NPR.
The short video also includes comments from NPR’s political editor Ken Rudin and the Poynter Institute’s Kelly McBride.
There’s a lot to think about in the video. I work for an employer that values its perception as a neutral, objective news source; we don’t even take advertising. This impacts who I give money to–nothing partisan, no groups I potentially cover as a source, no candidates for federal office–although I am not sure it would stop me from marching in a gay pride parade (although my employer does not write about general LGBT issues).
I do feel strongly about objectivity and the perception of bias, so I have similar worries about an event turning into something political. Especially living in Washington, D.C., where everything is political, I’d be wary of attending an event that could turn political or be viewed as partisan. Even going as a guest to a fundraiser makes me uncomfortable, despite the fact it isn’t my money.
There are definitely those who will disagree with what was said in NPR’s video. I’d be interested in hearing how others view the issue.