When is it OK for journalists to take money from lobby groups?

In the coming days, the Conference of Defence Associations will announce the recipient of its Ross Munro Media Award for this year, including its $2,500 cash prize.

Should we just shrug it off when someone takes a cheque from a defence lobby group on Saturday night, and then calls their office for a quote on Monday morning?

Should Canadian journalists accept cash awards from DND-funded lobby groups like the Conference of Defence Associations?

We may roll our eyes at journalists in the U.S. sometimes, but lets give credit where it’s due: if you work for a major U.S. defence publication like the respected Defense News, and you accept any kind of gift from the defence lobby – you might be fired for a breach of ethics!

I asked Theresa Hitchens, former editor of Defense News, whether its reporters could accept an award like the CDA’s Ross Munro Media Award. Here is what she said:

When I was there, we had a STRICT policy against such activities – and I believe it would have been grounds for dismissal. We even had a policy that said if someone from industry takes you out to lunch, you have to reciprocate on [Defense News] dime.

Why don’t Canadian media outlets adhere to such high ethical standards? Should we just shrug it off when someone takes a cheque from a defence lobby group on Saturday night, and then calls their office for a quote on Monday morning?

Here’s my suggestion: Let the CDA give its award to a defence contractor or retiring officer (like Hillier). It’s just too unseemly for journalists.

[A list of past recipients of the CDA’s $2500 Ross Munro Media Award]

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