Scott Tibbs

Printed in the Indiana Daily Student, 04-11-2002

Back to opinion page.

Conflict of interest apparent at IDS

To the editor:

There is a conflict of interest on the IDS opinion page, but the paper has not been up front with its readers about this conflict and the concern it creates regarding the opinion page. IDS opinion editor Travis R. Thickstun works as a paid intern for Bloomington city government in the city council office while he oversees the content of the opinion page, including who is hired as columnists and what letters to the editor are published, as well as official positions taken by the IDS in staff editorials.

Indeed, the IDS has published two staff editorials during Thickstun's term as opinion editor that supported policy proposals of the city. On Jan. 31 the IDS supported the city's controversial plan for West Kirkwood while the IDS on Feb. 21 supported the city's attempt to put the ST Semicon site into receivership.

I have been assured by the IDS that Thickstun recused himself from the votes on these positions and has made a significant effort to ensure that his position in city government does not affect or color his performance as IDS opinion editor. I do not doubt that he has done this and I do not question Thickstun's personal integrity on this matter. But this is a position the IDS should never have put itself in. The issue is not Thickstun's job performance; the issue is a clear conflict of interest that is in violation of ethical standards set forth by the Society of Professional Journalists.

At the very least, the IDS has a responsibility to disclose to its readership Thickstun's conflict, but there was no disclosure with those two editorials, nor has there been to my knowledge any mention of Thickstun's position with city government as of the April 4 edition of the IDS. IDS readers, as well as the Bloomington and University communities, deserve to know the whole truth about the connection between city hall and the area's second largest newspaper.