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Some Questions About Covering Events, Political Fundraisers

Twice in the past week, sources have called to let me know about functions -- then asked for money from me to attend.

The first came up in my Chamber of Commerce orientation. The big group -- not the Corona del Mar Chamber, but rather the big Newport Beach one -- hosts several contests, events and banquets over the year. Some are really famous, like the Christmas Boat Parade. Others are small, like the Sandcastle Contest.

In between are things like Taste of Newport (food festival with live music), Police Appreciation Breakfast and Mayor's Dinner.

They told me that I could attend all these things -- buy paying cash or using Chamber Bucks (they give you chits when you sign up.)

I'm a little confused, because I never ranked high enough in a newsroom to know if the companies paid my way when I attended and covered these kinds of things. They want me to pay and attend as if I were just another business owner. Not a reporter, covering a story.

It seems to me that I should go to the Police Breakfast, cover it, free, and obviously not eat. (Although I see my competition eating free all the time at events.)

The second issue came up this week when I was invited to a fundraiser for a woman running for reelection to the City Council. This woman is super pro-Corona del Mar Today, although her district is nowhere near CdM. She likes the site, as do her friends, because of the cycling coverage.

So her friend, who is a good source for me, told me about it. And I was thinking, I should basically run notices about all political fundraisers that come up, if the organizers send me the information.

But he wanted me to pay the $100 to attend.

I bristled. That seems like a lot of money! And also, doesn't that commit me to attending all the candidates' events? I'd be broke.

Once again, I have no idea if publishers at papers pay their way into all these events. I never thought to ask. I never covered politics, really.

I would love some input from working reporters and maybe managers with experience in these areas. I want to come up with a policy regarding political fundraisers and how I cover them -- certainly I don't give money to candidates. Beyond that, do I have to watch equal time issues? Our local representative is running unopposed, so I doubt there will be much news from her campaign. But still -- is there a resource on covering politics fairly and ethically?

And about those Chamber functions...Should I pay my way to covering a news event? Or should I attend and mingle and pay and shut up and if I get a story, so be it?

Advice?

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Comment by Tracy Record on February 18, 2010 at 5:26pm
We pay for Chamber lunches because one of us, usually my husband, just attends as a rep of our business. Once in a while, we cover it as a news event. If we were only covering it as a news event, we wouldn't pay (and of course wouldn't eat - I didn't wind up having lunch at the one I covered as a news event last week, salad and laptop don't mix).

Re: the political fundraiser, OF COURSE NOT. Unless you are going as a private citizen and supporter of the candidate.

There is an educational process here in the neighborhood news world - you are educating some people who haven't dealt with reporters before. We have gone thru this trying to explain photography/recording rights to public-meeting leaders, at meetings that never had journalists before, for example.

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