whose conflict of interest?

Reporters often get more bent out of shape over conflict of interest than their publishers, who are tightly bound to other power centers through various institutional linkages.  The Wall Street hires PR executive Mark Penn to write a column, then seems surprised that person whose business is strategic communication might actually have another motive in writing a column than simply informing the public.

Mr. Penn’s hiring was greeted with disapproval by some people in The Journal’s newsroom, though they insisted on anonymity for fear of angering their bosses. They noted that The Journal had written about both Burson-Marsteller and Mr. Penn and that Journal reporters routinely dealt with people at Burson.

The scandal over pay-for-dinner chats with journalists at the Washington Post, is a typical recent story along these lines (and a good idea for a case study)

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