Journalism and consulting don’t mix

The Fox station in Detroit officially parted ways with a highly-paid morning anchor this week.  Fanchon Stinger was suspended last month after reports connected her to a controversial city contract that’s now under federal investigation.  According to the Detroit News, Stinger’s “media consulting and public speaking company” was hired last fall to place ads for Synagro, the firm that eventually won the contract. In a written statement, Stinger denounced what she called the “malicious dismantling” of her reputation and career:”

At the conclusion of the federal investigation it will be apparent that the scandalous allegations pertaining to my personal involvement with Synagro are misleading and without factual basis. At that time I will also be free to correct the blatant misrepresentations and tawdry allegations that have been attached to me.

Stinger co-anchored the morning newscast at WJBK-TV and was paid over $300,000 a year, according to the News.  Synagro won’t say how much it paid her company for the ad contract.  But money isn’t really the issue here.  Even if the work was pro-bono, the conflict of interest would be patently obvious to anyone–except Stinger herself, perhaps.

Independence is one of the most basic ethical principles any journalist should live by.  The Radio-Television News Directors Association’s ethics code couldn’t be more clear:

Professional electronic journalists should understand that any commitment other than service to the public undermines trust and credibility.

The lesson here is simple: If you want to do media consulting, get out of the news business.