Would your newsroom ethics policy prohibit a free lunch in this circumstance?

A Raleigh journalist sends the emails below – he uses the subject line, “The N&O’s sandwich Nazi” – and describes Nathan Custis as “a young, well-meaning news clerk.” Andy Curliss, who responds to the clerk’s note, is a veteran Raleigh News & Observer reporter.

Your thoughts on this “ethics case”? Please post in comments.

On Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 12:02 PM, Custis, Nathan wrote:

Hi everyone,

My wife and esteemed editor of the Campbell Law Observer, Katherine Custis, is looking for one or (preferably) two people with the N&O or one of our community papers to come in to Campbell Law School (just a few blocks from us) from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22, to have a Q&A with her and her staff about best practices, article writing, style and technique.
lunch
They’d like to have, between the two reporters (or editors!), a 5-10 minute presentation (something like Top Ten Writing Tips for Interesting Articles) with time for questions afterward.

The trouble is not without its perks; they are offering to buy you lunch at Café Carolina.

Let me know if anyone’s interested.


Nathan Custis
News Clerk
The News & Observer l newsobserver.com l triangle.com

From the newsroom veteran, sent three minutes later:

From: Curliss, Andy
Date: Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 12:05 PM
Subject: Re: Anyone looking for a free lunch 9/22?
To: “Custis, Nathan”
Cc: RAL Newsroom Staff

Reminder that our ethics policy generally prohibits accepting free food.

* 2.4 MEALS

* Newsroom employees will not accept free food, except under one circumstance listed below. If scheduling makes it imperative that you eat while the captive of the news or a source, the newspaper will make arrangements to pay.

At political meetings and sports events, there is usually a lot of food. We should avoid taking it when possible, and we should pay for it when it’s necessary to eat. Sports reporters, for example, often work under tight deadline, and the spread at an athletic event may be their only chance to eat. There’s no need for the reporter to attempt to pay for the food at that moment. The newspaper will make arrangements to reimburse the school or team. The exception is that it is OK to accept free food in cases where refusing it would be rude or insulting. An example would be a reporter accompanying a political candidate who is campaigning door-to-door and who is invited in for a barbecue sandwich or a piece of cake. If the reporter decides that good manners dictate accepting the food, then it is all right to do so.

I’m guessing that News & Observer journalists have been slipped honorariums for speaking to journalism classes and other groups. A lunch instead of payment seems acceptable to me.




Comments

comments