Writers urged to declare conflicts of interest

Journalists writing critical articles should declare any potential conflicts of interest, according to former News International Scotland boss Jack Irvine.

He complained to the Press Complaints Commission about a piece in The Times panning the proposed redevelopment of London’s Smithfield market, because the writer was a member of a group that opposed the scheme.

Irvine, who now works in PR, was acting on behalf of client Thornfield Properties and argued that writer Marcus Binney should have declared his membership of the group SAVE, which campaigns for threatened historic buildings, somewhere in the 23 August article.

Irvine has now dropped his PCC complaint after persuading The Times to publish a letter from his client criticising Binney for not declaring his interest in the article.

Irvine believes this could set a precedent in future for journalists to declare possible conflicts of interest.

He said: “It’s a good example of the PCC getting involved and a good resolution coming about.” He added: “It sets an interesting precedent over the fact that if somebody writes a story and there’s a conflict of interest, that should be in the body of the article.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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