Full disclosure

I’ve been musing here and there about citizen journalists subsidizing their work with other work, but I haven’t yet addressed the question of conflict of interest.

It’s a bit simpler to draw the line when you’re hauling drywall or pulling pints, but my paid work has drifted recently into video-land, a confusing place populated by NGOs and campaigns and other potential journalistic tripwires.

I’ve decided it’s best to be up-front about the stuff I’m working on, both now and sometime in the future, if I ever write about overlapping issues. For example:

So that’s a video I worked on for Vancouver production house Point Blank Creative. I contributed writing and also worked on set, as well as helping to edit the piece. Oh yeah, I also got to cut things up with a hacksaw. It was a lot of fun, the actors were troopers, and I’m happy with how it turned out.

Point Blank was hired through a consultant for the Rainforest Solutions Project. RSP is a coalition comprised of ForestEthics, Greenpeace Canada, and the Sierra Club’s BC chapter. RSP’s overhead is paid for by Tides Canada. And yes, I was paid by Point Blank for my time.

If you’re a fan of warped semantics, I suppose you could argue I’m a foreign-funded radical.

You could also argue that I’m indebted to the BC forestry industry. My grandfather owned and operated a sawmill. On the other side of my family, I have two little cousins whose dad works as a faller. This video is not an attack on his profession or the jobs of thousands of other BC loggers — First Nations or otherwise.

If you care, I do think current targets are too low to adequately protect the world’s last intact temperate rainforest.

We’re talking about the coast of the entire BC mainland from Alaska halfway down Vancouver Island. Every fjord, valley, island and archipelago – including Haida Gwaii. Logging half that land would mean a cut area the size of Belgium. In terms of timber products, I think we humans can get by on less.

The video we produced is being used in a campaign called Take It Taller, aimed at gathering support for expanded conservation. I was aware of the overall plan when I agreed to work on the video.

UPDATE: Global BC’s Linda Aylesworth filed on the campaign, using shots from the video.

Why do I feel the need to disclose my involvement with RSP? Because there are other threats to the BC coast — its ecology and the long-term livelihood of its residents. I might find myself writing about any of those issues, and the stakeholders overlap considerably.

This is part of the evolution of what it means to be a journalist. Even if a staff position at a major news outlet were a guarantee of editorial independence, those jobs are few and far between. I chose to walk away from mine. These days, in order to subsidize my own journalistic projects, experiments, and reflection, I’m using some of my other skills.

Now you know. I’m curious what you make of this. Should I avoid stories from now on where groups like ForestEthics play a key role? Should I forge ahead, but link back to this blog post, in the interests of transparency? Should I worry less, or worry more about this stuff?


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