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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Wisconsin public official blurs line between journalist and politician

Dodgeville, Wis. Mayor, Todd Novak, has worked for the local Dodgeville Chronicle for the past 24 years–and now he’s running for the state Assembly.

Chris Rickert, writing for the Wisconsin State Journal, cautioned, if Novak is elected, “his judgment and ability to understand the meaning of ‘conflict of interest'” would extend beyond the small town weekly paper, creating a, “direct impact on 5.7 million Wisconsinites, not just the 4,700 of them who live in Dodgeville.” 

Novak pointed out the Dodgeville Chronicle makes sure he doesn’t cover issues that conflict with his position as Mayor and that the paper would be sure to ‘nail’ him in print for any unethical behavior, like accepting a bribe.

The Center for Journalism Ethics’ director, Robert Drechsel, referencing the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethicsdiscussed the ethical implications of Novak’s position as both a journalist and an elected official with Rickert. 

[Drechsel] pointed to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which says, in part, that journalists should “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and “shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.”

Read the entire article here.


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