Ethics Experts Concerned Over NBC’s ‘Mind-Boggling’ Ties To Trump

Ethics Experts Concerned Over NBC’s ‘Mind-Boggling’ Ties To Trump

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

The Associated Press highlighted how President-elect Donald Trump’s financial ties to NBC have created new concerns among ethics experts about conflicts NBC might face when “a company that has a news division is covering the president of the United States who has an interest in a show on that network.”

Trump will remain an executive producer of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, creating an unprecedented conflict of interest between a sitting president and a major news outlet. NBC News, MSNBC, and CNBC will be reporting on President Trump at the same time that their corporate parent will stand to benefit from Trump’s reputation and popularity. This places NBC’s journalists in an untenable position.

In a December 9 article, The Associated Press highlighted ethics experts and journalism professors who voiced concern over NBC’s ties to Trump. Marcy McGinnis, a former CBS News executive and journalism professor, explained the problem, calling it “a clear conflict of interest to me that a company that has a news division is covering the president of the United States who has an interest in a show on that network.” She termed the arrangement “mind-boggling on so many levels.” Aly Colon, an “expert in journalist ethics,” noted people’s desire to “believe in an independent news division not affected by business ties.” From the AP:

Donald Trump’s continued stake in television’s “Celebrity Apprentice” adds to questions about potential conflicts between his personal and public responsibilities, while raising new ones about NBC.

If it continues, journalists at NBC News will be covering a president for a corporation whose entertainment division retains ties to the man. The reality show, which returns to NBC’s schedule on Jan. 2 with Arnold Schwarzenegger replacing Trump as host, includes the president-elect as one of its executive producers.

[…]

“It’s just so mind-boggling on so many levels,” said Marcy McGinnis, a former CBS News executive who taught journalism at Stony Brook University. “It is a clear conflict of interest to me that a company that has a news division is covering the president of the United States who has an interest in a show on that network.

“How do you remain unbiased?” she asked. “The onus is on NBC to say, ‘we can’t do this.'”

People want to believe in an independent news division not affected by business ties, said Aly Colon, an expert in journalist ethics at Washington & Lee University who once worked in NBC’s standards department. He said he’s sure the issues are being considered at NBC.

“A lot of people find it difficult to believe there is a wall between news and entertainment,” Colon said.

The liberal watchdog Media Matters for America on Friday launched a petition drive calling on NBC to cut ties with Trump, saying reporters are put in an untenable spot and that no amount of disclosure is enough when a network is financially invested in the president.

Sign Media Matters’ petition telling NBC to Dump Trump.

IMAGE: Executive Producer and host Donald Trump (C) speaks about the NBC television show “The Celebrity Apprentice” during the TCA presentations in Pasadena, California, January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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