CES: Riding in cars with sources

January 4, 2011

Here’s a note that my editor received from the press agent for Line2, which bills itself as “one of the most famous and best selling apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad (Android is being announced just before CES).” Among other things, Line2 “is a second line on your iPhone or Android phone that allows you to place and receive calls and SMS for free over Wi-Fi.  When Wi-Fi is unavailable, Line2 will connect over a 3G/4G data connection or the cellular network.  Never miss a call because you are out of range or Wi-Fi or cellular coverage.”

You have received the following last week but we just wanted to post it again for your convenience

1.    A Car And Driver To Take You To Important CES Appointments

2.    A Six Month Free Trial Subscription of Line2

3.    A 25% Discount on Six Months of Service For All Of Your Readers

4.    A Chance To Say Hello To Peter Sisson, CEO of Toktumi, Parent Company of Line2, On Wednesday Night at Pepcom

5.    Individual Appointments For Thursday, January 6th, at Line2 One Day Only Booth, North Hall… Peter will be happy to meet you any time during CES — Be sure to catch Line2 at FashionWare, the first ever runway show that will unveil the next generation in wearable technology – Friday night, 6pm at the Fashion Mall.

This made me think about reporters, accepting gifts and the policies that lots of media outlets have that say we’re not supposed to do that. Our policy is here in its entirety. Here is an excerpt:

The Reuters Code of Conduct reminds journalists that they must not accept any payment, gift, service or benefit (whether in cash or in kind) offered by a news source or contact. In some societies it is traditional to offer or receive gifts on special occasions, such as secular or religious holidays. To refuse such a gift may cause offence and in weighing what to do, a journalist must be mindful of a society’s culture and traditions. A good test of whether to accept the gift or politely decline is the value of the item. A traditional gift of purely nominal value may be appropriate to accept.

I called the press agent, Lois Whitman. She never asks for an interview of her client in return for the freebies, I should add. Whether that’s implied, I cannot say.

Me: Have any journalists taken you up on the car and driver offer?

Lois: I would love you to.

Me: I’m not going to CES. But has anyone else?

Lois: Just a few.

Me: What are their names? Who do they work for?

Lois: I don’t have my list right in front of me.

Me: A lot of news outlets wouldn’t let journalists do this because of their ethics policies about taking gifts.

Lois: What we really wanted to do… It’s very difficult to get press appointments here… (phone line cuts out)… been to every Consumer Electronics Show since the beginning. This client wants (phone line cuts out again). Hello? Are you there? Hello?

Me: Lois? Can you hear me? (ad lib)

Lois (to someone else): He can’t hear me. He’ll call back. *click*

I hate leaving journalism ethics discussions unresolved, so we’ll update once Lois returns my call.

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