Sex, Dating and Reporters

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By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists

Journalism sometimes is described as a sexy job, but there are limits.

The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists got a call from a California editor who said his City Hall reporter was having an affair with the mayor.

A Massachusetts reporter asked how soon she should tell her editor about a growing relationship with an attorney she met while covering court cases. And a Washington, D.C., editor proposed a rule forbidding his staff from dating any person who is a news source, or might become a news source. A reporter complained that would mean reporters could not date anyone, since anyone might become news.

Is a rule against dating news sources going too far in the name of ethics, or is it simply recognition that journalism requires higher standards? Or should journalists have a chance at romance like everyone else?

If you were the editor, what would you decide in these cases? What would be fair?

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

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