A matter of principle

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

I received a couple of complaints about last week’s cover story, “Show on the road,” by Brad Bynum that essentially accused us of conflict of interest since Bynum was writing about his own band. We’ve never covered any of his bands in the past, for this reason.

We take this stuff seriously around here. We examined the possibilities of conflict of interest before I assigned the story. Essentially, in a newspaper, a conflict of interest is when a newspaper or writer (or someone he or she has a personal relationship with) tends to benefit financially outside the newspaper from the publication of a story.

That’s a really unsophisticated definition and doesn’t take in the whole concept of “perceived” conflicts of interest, but it’ll do for this discussion.

I liked the idea of telling our readers about what it’s like to go on tour. I wrote a similar story once, but my story was about a one-night gig in Sacramento, not really a “tour.” This had the potential to really take readers to a place they’re not likely to go, and to scratch that itch of the frustrated rock star.

I primarily had two thoughts in my analysis of whether Bynum’s writing of this story was a conflict. First, since it would not be published until after the tour, Bynum would not benefit financially from the story by promotion of the tour or even the show in Reno. Add to this the fact that the band was going on indefinite hiatus after the tour, and I felt pretty secure. Second, we’d disclose the conflict high in the story, so readers would be aware that Bynum worked here and was in the band.

I don’t believe this story would have happened otherwise. I don’t think the “musical arts brain drain” story would have been told, either. We certainly can’t afford to send a writer on the road with a band for a week. But I often second-guess myself on matters of ethics, and I’m always interested in what others think on these lines, so please, feel free to send me your thoughts.