Monday, April 7, 2008

Is the Media Required to Provide Full Story Disclosure?

Jen Rae Hein, press secretary for Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, feels deceived by journalists from the University of Nebraska's Daily Nebraskan. She finds herself deep in a spot where journalistic ethics, news and the role of a government communicator collide.

An article in Friday's Omaha World-Herald indicates that the student newspaper, working on a story on a convicted killer who gives tours at the governor's mansion, set up a private tour by saying it was working on a story about the house being placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hein, according to the article, considered banning reporters from the governor's press conferences but chose instead to simply take the paper off its distribution list.

What do you think? Did the newspaper break ethical boundaries to get the story it wanted, or could it have achieved its goals by being up front with the focus of the story? If they had revealed their story focus, would the governor's office have had the right to say no to a private tour? Should the governor's office now punish the newspaper? Leave your comments on how you would react.


Anonymous said...

All of us in government communications have to assume that journalists are not always going to ask ONLY about the story they are working on. Still, the newspaper seems to have stepped over the line and maybe could have gotten a better story if they had been up front with the governor's office to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is a mutual mistrust. The reporters probably believed that they would get the whole story by asking for it on the other hand; we believe that they would far more prefer to skew something that they perceive we are withholding. Our relationship with the press and the public requires transparency. We can manage these relationships but we must manage them in the same vein that we manage our personal relationships. It requires hard work and commitment to the process. The response to bar the reporter is unacceptable in my view. It should spur discussion instead. We are not powerless. We have some control over perceptions, yet we do understand that much of the news that is presented to the public is negative. Media is always looking for the top story, that big headline and unfortunately bad news is very good for business. Nonetheless, responding in a manner that represents public service and transparency with the small requests from the press have helped my agency build relationships that foster fair play. It has developed a level of trust which has been particularly helpful when we have had stories that have not been flattering. The press has a great deal of influence on your recovery from these situations, work with them.