Journalistic Ethics 101

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I had a journalistic dilemma on my hands. 

Here's the story.

My girlfriend was part of the group that conducted the fit testing for the Winnipeg Jets. Her role included supervising the player's workouts, monitoring performance, and inputting data.

Professional sports teams go to great lengths to make sure its players are in tip-top shape. Fit testing is an important job, considering the team has spent millions on players salaries, to ensure that it's investments are in phenomenal working order.

Other than hiring people who know what they're doing, there's also another vital job requirement: no loose lips. That means no leaks about a player's performance, their attitudes regarding workouts, or their medical information. Hell, should a player do as much as sneeze during the smelling-salt exercise, it stays in that room. 

When she returned that morning, I gave her one simple request: I want Byfuglien's weight. 

If you've been following the Winnipeg sports scene over the last few weeks (which I assume you all have), you may know that there have been reports that the Jets' biggest blueliner got a lot little bigger over the summer. Coupled with his arrest for drunk boating -and his refusal to take a blood test upon said arrest- I think it's safe to say Jets fans are a tad curious and concerned. 

Later in the evening, I was to make my sports radio debut on 92.9 KICK FM's Friday Face-Off. I couldn't think of a better way to christen the show than to exclusively announce Byfuglien's actual weight. I also wanted to report on other interesting sights and stories from the fit testing.

My girlfriend's response: Hell no.

I pleaded with her. This is what good reporters do. They break stories that people need and want to hear. They get their information from leaks and insiders. This is all part of the game. I threw everything but the kitchen sink at her. She wasn't budging.

He said she took the requirement of confidentially very seriously, as she was proud and honoured to be selected for the job. She wasn't about to compromise that for anything -even if it was done to benefit me and my career.

So, the show went off without a hitch -and without mention of Byfuglien's official weight, or any other tales from the day.

Now, to be fair, Friday Face-Off is a college radio program. It probably had a listener ship of 11 that night. Anything mentioned would be as good as not mentioned at all.

But here's the question: say I was a legitimate, full-time reporter, journalist, or member of the media. My girlfriend mentions the same story to me. What do I do?

Do I compromise the integrity of her career, and our relationship, for the sake of a great story? Do I respect her wishes, while one of her co-workers blabs about the fit test happenings to another reporter, leaving me a day late and a dollar short?

It's a difficult question, one I'm sure is asked often by reporters with contacts in privileged environments.

I'll end on a quote, from all people, infamous Pittsburgh Steeler's quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger: "Football is what I do. Not who I am." Maybe it's some good advice. Or maybe it's bullshit. Either way, his words have some deeper meaning.

If I miss out on a breaking story, but still have a wife to go home to, I think I'll be okay.


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