Sunday, July 31, 2005

Democrat editor has conflict of interest

Wednesday's Lamar Democrat featured a troubling paragraph in editor Rayma Bekebrock Davis' article on the latest Barton County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees meeting.
Apparently, Mrs. Davis is one of a number of Lamar and Barton County citizens who have been selected by hospital administrator Rudy Snedigar to participate on a strategic planning committee.
I don't question Mrs. Davis' intelligence or ability to contribute to such a committee, but it definitely smacks of conflict of interest. How can she cover hospital board meetings and participate on such a committee. If she is part of a committee that recommends that certain steps be taken, can she fairly report on those steps, or can she overcome the perception that she cannot.
I faced the same problem during my last two or three years as editor at the Democrat when Publisher Doug Davis successfully ran for a Ward One City Council seat. We overcame those problems by taking a few simple steps. One, I covered the council meetings, not Doug, and I guarantee you there were times when I quoted Doug that he wished he was writing the articles, but he not only allowed me to write the stories, he never looked at them until the newspaper was out on the streets.
There were a few people who questioned Doug running for city council, but I don't recall ever receiving any calls claiming the Democrat's coverage was biased during that time.
If the board approves Mrs. Davis' participation in this committee, she should quickly make the same kind of arrangement with the Democrat's government reporter Richard Cooper.

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