In Support of Public Disclosure

Confession time.

In my previous life as a journalist I was not always considerate or respectful of public  relations professionals. In fact, I believe I yelled at or hung up on a few (sorry!). The disrespect stemmed from a lack of understanding of the synergy that exists among communicators.

I took my job as a journalist seriously. It was the Fourth Estate, a profession protected by the US Constitution. In my work as a broadcast journalist I tried to uphold the values of the Society of Professional Journalist Code of Ethics:

  • Seek Truth and Report It
  • Minimize Harm
  • Act Independently
  • Be Accountable

As the world and how we communicate evolves by the second, it’s that mindset I try to reflect back on in my current role as a communications counselor and business owner.

I was flattered to be asked to join the Idaho Statesman Editorial Board as a Community Representative beginning this July. The editorial pages across the country are the target of slings and arrows, and do throw quite a few themselves. I am the first to admit I often raise my voice in the early morning quiet of my home when reading editorials. But I strongly believe that we can only try to understand issues if we embrace multiple sides of the story.

I do not always agree with the position on the page. But I embrace the discourse it inspires. They always make me think. They always sharpen my responses – whether in support of, or opposition to, the points being made.

In announcing my appointment, an online commenter raised a concern on Editorial Page Editor Kevin Richert’s blog

Reader: Conflict of Interest? You have a PR professional who will no doubt be seeking some earned media from the Statesman. Yeah, no conflict there.

Kevin Richert/Editorial Page Editor: You raise a fair question, and it’s one we’ve discussed. When editorials deal with current or former Red Sky clients, we will state that conflict upfront. And there may be times when Jessica will have to recuse herself from an editorial.

I would add that this is not unprecedented. I have had to personally declare conflicts on a few occasions. On another occasion, when I had a deep personal conflict on a topic, I recused myself entirely from the discussion and drafting of an editorial — and didn’t see it at all until the paper showed up on my doorstep.

At the end of the day, it is about what the Association of Opinion Journalists stated,  ’promoting a healthier civic culture by helping raise the quality of public discourse.’

I am honored to be a part of that.

Will I agree with the stance of all the editorials? No.

Will I speak up and share my opinion and insights from my experiences and my connections in the community? You bet.

While the journalist code of ethics doesn’t transition directly to my current role, I still respect and seek to embody its ideals as a PR practitioner.  And when it comes to my role on the editorial board, it will again be the driving force.