Drawing the line

“It is easy enough to look back at 2007 and pass judgment”, Tom Moran penned in a recent column. Given his recent hire at PSE&G, it’s seems fair to look back and at least ask some questions.

Reporters are no different than most job seekers – mums the word until you have actually landed the new position. But do they have an obligation to their readers to avoid stories inviting potential conflicts while they are job hunting?

Three of Moran’s last four columns celebrated Hillary Clinton. Fair enough, Clinton is coming off a big NJ win and she is the favorite of the state’s political establishment including Essex County Democrat Chair Phil Thigpen, the father of Moran’s new boss, Rick Thigpen. Perhaps Moran should have passed on including the interview with the senior Thigpin?

Reporters and columnists also write a lot about full disclosure (Man with eagle eye for conflicts has a blind spot). So where’s the line they should draw for themselves?

According to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, it includes avoiding the perception of conflicts and “remain(ing) free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.It’s a harder line to draw when a columnist is switching horses.

To Tom’s credit, his new employer did not reap any direct benefits. Although PSE&G has jumped on the Governor’s asset monetization bandwagon (Corzine's toll plan finds more support), Moran sidestepped the debate.

Of course, PSE&G’s support came a day after New Jersey Citizen Action and the New Jersey Large Energy Users Coalition teamed up with the Public Advocate in opposing the utility from recovering hundreds of millions of dollars in disputed costs from ratepayers. And it came a week before PSE&G announced record profits of $1.34 billion and looming double digit rate hikes for its electric customers.

Just a coincidence – seems like perfect fodder for a columnist?

To be fair, the silence on the PSE&G public relations timeline has been missed or largely ignored by most in the media.

Drawing the line