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University of Wisconsin–Madison
School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ethics of ABC News Anchor’s Hosting of Partisan Event In Question

The chief White House correspondent from one of the largest news organizations in the country recently came under fire from a left-leaning media watch organization for his involvement in an event hosted by a right-leaning organization.

Jon Karl, a veteran reporter for ABC News, recently moderated a panel discussion between Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz that was hosted by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, an organization that is headed by the Koch brothers, Charles and David. The organization has been called the brothers’ “secret bank.”

Karl’s active participation at the event comes under criticism, according to ThinkProgress.org, because his involvement indirectly lends credibility to an event put on by a partisan organization. ThinkProgress.com, itself a liberal-leaning news media website, spoke with several media ethics experts across the country about the matter.

Marc Cooper, the Director of Annenberg Digital News and an associate professor of professional practice at the University of Southern California’s School for Communication and Journalism, voiced his personal disapproval of Karl’s involvement. “The public has no input or access and no public service is being performed. Karl has no business being there.”

Jane Kirtley, professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, also offered her opinion to ThinkProgress, saying that it appears Karl, “negotiated an arrangement that should allow him to act reasonably independently,” and she didn’t consider the involvement of Karl or ABC News as a contribution to the Koch’s group. Personally, on the other hand, Kirtley voiced her own potential concerns about the matter, saying, “I do think it’s problematic when working journalists ‘moderate’ gatherings of political groups, industry groups, etc. – especially when those groups or topics relate to the beats they cover.”

ThinkProgress also cited the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics when discussing the issue, which says journalists should, “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived,” and, “avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”

While some major traditional news sources reported on the event, including Time and ABC News, covered the event, ThinkProgress was the only organization covering the event to mention the potential ethics breach.

 

Read the full article here.

 

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