Conflict of interest

Should you ever get romantically involved with a source? The answer is clearly no. Los Angeles anchor Mirthala Salinas has been suspended without pay for two months for covering the city’s mayor while they were having an affair. The news director at the Telemundo station also was suspended. He knew about the relationship, but let Salinas report on the mayor anyway.

“While the content and accuracy of KVEA’s newscasts were not compromised, our news policy standards with respect to conflict of interest were clearly violated,” Telemundo President Don Browne wrote in an internal memo, according to the LA Times. And what are the consequences for Salinas?

“People will always remember her as the reporter who had an affair with the mayor, and that she got in trouble for that,” said Judy Muller, a former ABC network news correspondent and current NPR commentator who now teaches journalism at USC.

That damages her credibility, and I don’t know where she goes from Telemundo. A reporter only has her credibility, and once that’s sullied you have lost your value to your news organization.

Update (October 2, 2007): When Salinas returned to work in September she was reassigned to a remote bureau as a reporter.  She never showed up for work, and the station has now announced a mutual agreement “to end our employment relationship.”

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