More sponsors than a NASCAR driver: George Smith â€“ a contributor to this Web site, as well as a columnist for the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal â€“ runs an informative Web site of his own, where he provides his perspective on issues affecting hunting, fishing, and natural resources. Itâ€™s that last gig thatâ€™s causing ethical concerns.
Smithâ€™s blog lists a half-dozen sponsors, including First Wind, Elliotsville Plantation Inc., and (until this week) Shipyard Brewing. Their logos are prominently displayed, so if Smith writes about issues in which theyâ€™re involved, visitors to his site will have no trouble finding out he has a financial arrangement with these companies.
But thatâ€™s not the case in Smithâ€™s other journalistic undertakings.
His July 13 column in the Sentinel and KJ praised the efforts of Roxanne Quimby to promote a national park in the Maine woods. No mention that Elliotsville Plantation is Quimbyâ€™s land management company. In fact, no mention of Elliotsville, at all.
If it were, it wouldnâ€™t explain why Smith devoted his July 20 column in the two papers to defending a controversial wind-power project. And it also wouldnâ€™t explain why he didnâ€™t include a disclaimer about First Wind, the projectâ€™s developer, being a sponsor of his Web site.
In the July 24 Maine travel column Smith and his wife write for the Sentinel and KJ, he claims Shipyard offers the â€śbest tourâ€ť of any Maine brewery. At the time the column appeared, Shipyard was listed a sponsor of his site. That fact wasnâ€™t mentioned in the travel piece.
Media outlets that carry Smithâ€™s writings need to be more vigilant in making sure his conflicts of interest are clearly spelled out for their readers. And it also wouldnâ€™t hurt if they gave Smith a little lesson in journalistic ethics.
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