Sunday, July 12, 2009

SOUND OFF: CASH FOR CRITICS?

While 72 percent of readers responding to an informal poll on my column's blog questioned the credibility of reporters who accept free travel to cover their industries, many who wrote in agreed with the 20 percent of readers who believed that an honest reporter can nevertheless maintain his or her objectivity under such circumstances. Granted, some respondents had a vested interest in the issue.

"If you don't want the writers to get handouts from the industry they are reviewing," writes Penney A. of Columbus, Ohio, "then you need to find another way to pay their way. If not, then you will be left with `free' reviews from online people who may really have an agenda to promote their company!"

As a travel writer, Rob R. of California struggles with this question a great deal.

"I certainly make an effort to pay my expenses whenever possible," he writes. "There is simply no way I would be able to do my job without accepting free travel or accommodation from some of the places I am writing about ... The alternative would allow only independently wealthy people ... to become travel writers."

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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