Among the many anxieties that hound a broadcast news division president in 2010 (the dangers of Afghanistan, the steady sucking away of viewers to cable TV, the heckling from Jon Stewart, etc.), the cries of media bias from conservative critics remains a constant irritation. Playing defense against allegations that so-and-so has lost his objectivity and hopped in bed with the Obama administration is a constant and irritating price of doing business.
So what do you do when one of your reporters actually falls in love with a top administration member?
Earlier this year, Bianna Golodryga, a lissome 31-year-old financial reporter for ABC News, attended that reliable magnet for trouble that is the White House Correspondents Dinner in D.C., where she sat next to Peter Orszag, the 41-year-old, suspiciously hairlined head of the Office of Management and Budget and a top economic adviser to the president. Soon, they were dating. When things eventually got serious, Ms. Golodryga informed her bosses of the budding romance. According to ABC News spokesperson Jeffrey Schneider, ABC News executives, including president David Westin and standards chief Kerry Smith, immediately huddled up to discuss the development, decided there was no drastic cause for concern and agreed to keep an eye on the situation. Months passed, and eventually, on Dec. 29, the network seemingly put its seal of approval on the relationship when Ms. Golodryga appeared on Good Morning America and announced her engagement to Mr. Orszag.
The announcement, in turn, touched off a series of articles about Mr. Orszag’s previous love life (convoluted by D.C. standards!) and grumblings here and there that ABC had a conflict of interest. Since joining ABC News from CNBC in 2007, Ms. Golodryga has covered a wide range of financial issues, including certain topics, went the theory, such as government job reports and housing numbers that are regularly used to gauge the relative success or failure of the president’s economic policies—policies that, since January of this year, have been shaped in part by Ms. Golodryga’s fiancé.
Would ABC reassign Ms. Golodryga?
Short answer: no. According to ABC’s Mr. Schneider, Ms. Golodryga will continue to cover economic issues in New York. “We are certainly hyper-aware that there could be the perception of a conflict of interest,” said Mr. Schneider. “It is something that our executives and producers are all aware of. Bianna would be the first person to turn down an assignment if there was potential for any conflict.
“Broadcast journalism is a very collaborative process,” he added. “Bianna is never in the position of being the sole editor of the work that goes on here. There are many checks in place. And our standards-and-practices senior vice president pays close attention. We have plenty of aggressive reporters covering the administration, covering the budget. We hired Bianna because of her expertise in financial reporting.”