In Case You Were Wondering if Forbes.Com Was Journalism

Bloviation by politicians and nutters aside, most people are aware that professional journalism has its own code of ethics that anyone who studies journalism in school learns the same way doctors learn the Hippocratic Oath. Anyone unfamiliar with the specifics of such ethics can get a refresher at the Society for Professional Journalism.

One of the key tenets of such ethics surrounds independence, in particular the disclosure of conflicts of interest. News organizations and journalists as a group have a professional obligation to avoid conflicts of interest in their reporting whenever possible, and to disclose them if they exist.

The one area of exception to this strict disclosure has historically been the editorial page and the Op-Ed, page, so named for being opposite the editorial page of a newspaper. Historically any publication that had an editorial section or an Op-Ed section might be understood to feature objective journalism throughout the rest of the publication, governed by journalistic ethics, while allowing pure opinion in its editorial section.

Despite this, upstanding publications can generally be relied upon to readily identify conflicts of interest by indicating the roles, titles, and affiliations of those allowed to publish in the opinion pages.

All of which brings me to an article about Domaine de la Romanée-Conti entitled “The Most Important Luxury Wine Brand in the World” on Forbes.Com, written by John Kapon, the auctioneer at Acker Merrall & Condit.

This article does not appear in the Op Ed section of Forbes.Com, though under Kapon’s byline Forbes has helpfully printed the disclaimer “Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.”

No kidding.

The web site’s terms and conditions also state the following about non-staff contributions such as this article, just to be safe: “Neither Forbes nor its affiliates or employees shall be liable to any user or anyone else for claims of defamation, libel, slander, infringement, invasion of privacy and publicity rights, obscenity, pornography, fraud or misrepresentation arising from such content.”

Nowhere in or near this article is it mentioned that John Kapon is a wine auctioneer, who has made a fortune auctioning off, you guessed it, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti at Acker.

Well, maybe someone might notice the 7 point type on the photo credit that says it came from Acker. Or perhaps that self congratulatory quip “Big Boy had acquired this jero from us” buried in the tasting note for “1971 DRC La Tache” was enough, no? Most certainly you’d recognize the e-mail address at the end of the article, where John so very helpfully offers, “If you’re interested in learning more about the wines of DRC, feel free to email me at jk@ackerwines.com.”

Sigh.

Image from Wikipedia