Even in digital age, tenets of basic journalism matter

It's no surprise that traditional media are pulling out all the stops as they struggle to remain relevant in a digital age.

It's no surprise that traditional media are pulling out all the stops as they struggle to remain relevant in a digital age.

Adding video content to Web sites, asking for and using consumer-generated content, and adding an unprecedented level of transparency and stakeholder feedback are all measures that the most established news organizations have already taken - and they should be commended for doing so. But somewhere in the rush to be edgy, those news organizations may be overlooking the basic tenets of good journalism.

Take for example ABC News' hiring of former Rocketboom host Amanda Congdon as a video blogger. The hiring was heralded by observers as a move in the right direction for the organization, in particular its online initiative. But in working with Congdon, ABC News seems to have let slip a little thing called conflict of interest.

Last week, AdvertisingAge reported that in addition to her work for ABC, Congdon hosts a series of segments on DuPont's corporate Web site that touts the benefits of its various products. ABC News' explanation that she is a "unique contributor" and "independent contractor" - and thus exempt from the network's typical rules and regulations - isn't sufficient. It's hard to believe that if she was just a run-of-the mill, freelance TV journalist who began contributing clips online, ABC News would try to explain away such a conflict of interest in a similar fashion.

In the age of new media, the definition of a journalist has expanded. And for all intents and purposes, Congdon is a video journalist: she reports on events, conducts interviews with personalities, and packages the pieces to be aired under the ABC News banner. By not holding her to the same standards as its other journalists, ABC News is doing its viewers - and perhaps the journalism community at large - a disservice.

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