Claremore Daily Progress

Government

October 6, 2013

Conflict questions raised in PR firm’s tie to DA

Police chief: $8K paid to principals who also own weekly paper

(Continued)

CLAREMORE —

Wylie also told a reader who responded to the article that the PR business is separate from the weekly newspaper even though they share the same owners and business address, and that clients of the PR firm have no influence over what is published in the paper.
Wylie quoted his wife in the article as questioning whether Brown’s request for financial records of the relationship was an attempt to intimidate the Wylies “while hiding behind a badge, uniform and gun.” 
That caused Brown to raise questions of conflict of interest between the Wylies’ PR business relationship with DA Steidley and the couple’s newspaper criticism of the police chief and other supporters of the petition asking a grand jury to look into her conduct in office.
“It seems the bias is the result of Wylie’s public relations contract with (DA) Steidley,” said Brown. “Wylie has published material without asking me for information, which is very one-sided and appears to be improper for a journalist.”
Two former presidents of the Society of Professional Journalists, the country’s largest journalism organization, told The Daily Progress the relationship between the Wylies and the district attorney was a violation of the organization’s voluntary code of ethics regarding conflict of interest.
Kevin Smith, chairman of the SPJ Ethics Committee and deputy director of the Kiplinger Public Affairs Program at Dayton, Ohio, University, and Fred Brown, a Sunday columnist for the Denver Post and a former ethics chairman, said it is inappropriate for journalists to engage in a business relationship with public officials, even if indirectly through a separate company.
“You are either a journalist or something else,” said Smith. “You cannot have a public relations firm that deals with public officials and then run a newspaper and expect that you will some how divide yourself between the two.”

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