Saturday, September 17, 2011

Keeping secrets

After more than 20 years in professional journalism, I've learned to keep secrets. Details from sexual assault cases, abuse testimony, off-the-record tips and background will go to the grave with me. One of the toughest secrets to keep, though, was passed to me this morning by Dave Kempkers, owner of Hamilton Marathon, 3416 Lincoln Road (M-40) — I knew when he was going to drop gas prices from $3.69 to $2.99.

Man, what a secret! I could have told all my family and friends about this, but I told Dave I wouldn't. And just as important as that promise to a source is the basic journalistic rule of not using a situation to benefit yourself (or family and friends).

I was not going to use special knowledge to save myself cash. I did not fuel up. I sat quietly away from the pumps so I wouldn't tip off any passers-by. When the cashiers flipped that roadside sign to $2.99, I hopped out of the Kia and started snapping photos of those lucky enough to catch the deal.

Here are some pictures of the crowd:

All the drivers were polite and nice to each other, even when they came bumper-to-bumper. After 30 minutes, the cashiers flipped the signs back to $3.69 to let folks know the sale was over. All the drivers lined up at the pumps still got the discounted gas.

Anyway, I'm not sharing this to pat myself on the back. I'm just letting you know we journalists are really honest people and work hard daily to adhere to some pretty tight ethical rules. There's a fine line that sometimes is shrouded in haze and every day can offer a new challenge to honesty and objectivity. In fact, someone who offered to buy me a drink at an assignment the other day looked a bit offended when I didn't accept. I couldn't accept. I can't take favors from sources.

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