For the past couple days, I've been pointing out the incredible ethical lapse in Republic Publisher John Zidich's decision to remain on the Fiesta Bowl Executive Committee while the Republic investigated Fiesta Bowl corruption. Now it appears that the lapse will literally be part of a textbooks case on ethical lapses.
Here's a blog post by Cronkite Ethics Professor Tim McGuire. First, here's a bit about McGuire
Tim McGuire, 62, is the Frank Russell Chair for the business of journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. As the Russell Chair, McGuire focuses on providing courses on ethics and on the business components of journalism including operations, emerging media, corporate responsibility and the future of media.
Under the headline: "Arizona Republic gets an A+ for reporting, B for its editorial and an F for publisher’s conflict"
McGuire goes on to provide this analysis: (All of the following words are his.)
"As the headline above says, the Republic reporters deserve an A+, the editorial board gets a solid B, but the publisher of the Republic, John Zidich gets a F for an outrageous conflict of interest. Zidich is on the executive committee board of the Fiesta Bowl.
One prominent Arizona blogger blasted Zidich and even alleges the Junker took a fall because of Zidich’s involvemblent on the executive committee. I disagree with that. Junker took a fall because he thought he was “entitled” but Zidich’s involvement is a profound embarrassment.
His attempt at transparency in Wednesday’s paper is incredibly weak. He said:
"When I decided to go on the executive committee in 2010, I did it for one reason. That was to make sure that what we were hearing about in the community, and on the pages of our newspaper, about possible problems, was dealt with with completeness and transparency.
"I realize in my position that there could be an appearance of conflict between coverage and my involvement, but quite frankly this bowl means too much to the community. (I wanted to) make sure that whatever its future is, is a bright one. The only way to do that is to be involved."
It must be noted I just lifted that quote from The Espresso Pundit because at 12:38 p.m Tuesday I have scoured the online version of the Republic story and I cannot find the Zidich statement that appears in the morning newspaper. It appears (emphasis on appears) it has been removed from the story. So much for completeness and transparency. That may well be a sign someone is reconsidering Zidich’s comments.
Zidich has committed a gigantic sin even if he claims in the report that he distanced himself from the story which he did on page 71 of the report I found online.
I can find no direct evidence that Zidich’s involvement affected the Republic story. On its face the coverage seems very aggressive, but Zidich’s involvement has to make the public wonder if they are getting a sanitized version. And that doesn’t even mention the way the staff has to be looking over its shoulder.
In my ethics class I constantly rail against the “my heart is pure as driven snow” argument. I may think I can’t be unduly influenced but I don’t get to decide what is a conflict. If it appears to others there is a conflict, there is. Zidich’s heart may well be a pure as the driven snow, but that is never the test.
John Zidich should quit the Executive Committee of the Fiesta Bowl today or quit The Republic. When the Fiesta Bowl board was an important Valley booster of a great event, his involvement should have been questioned. Now that the Fiesta Bowl is mired in a corruption scandal that is going to play out publicly and painfully, he cannot hold both jobs.
I would like to think Zidich’s bosses at Gannett are taking a strong stand today on his blatant conflict of interest, but after reading of the appointment of a notorious political boss to the editorial board of Gannett’s New Jersey Courier Post that is probably wishful thinking."