In the good old days of total media neutrality and true objectivity, there were several things a reporter could do could be considered a lapse in ethics. Being related to someone you were reporting on, for instance, could be considered a conflict of interest. But in the current climate of “anything goes” in the media — newspapers and TV especially — is there really an ethical standard left to uphold?

Dustin Racioppi is a statehouse reporter for The Bergen Record. His wife owns a Rumson restaurant. According to an article on NewJerseyGlobe.com, he’s being called out for having a conflict of interest at press conferences for asking Gov. Phil Murphy pointed questions about when indoor dining will resume.

None of his questions are out of line or off topic, NewJerseyGlobe.com founder David Wildstein writes in his piece. And his questions are about one of the things on everyone’s mind during this most unusual time, whether his wife owns a restaurant or not. His questions about when restaurants will fully open again will have no bearing on or influence over the revenue of the family business. Ironically, Racioppi's ethics are being questioned at a time when there ARE no rules.

All the usual chains of command have been suspended during this emergency. Protocols have been changed, rules bent, and it’s a new normal, we’ve been told (ad nauseam), and we all have to accept it. And we’re going to question the sincere concern of a New Jersey citizen regarding a staple of the New Jersey economy because his family happens to be Involved in it?

One of Racioppi's recent questions was as benign as this: “Can you say what it will take for you to decide to allow indoor dining?” And another: “What plans are being considered, if any, to help the business community that is going to suffer from whatever effects this coronavirus will have, whether it’s closings or a curfew?”

The press is a free-for-all nowadays, with traditional reporting guidelines that govern sensationalism, partisan “reporting,” “fake news,” fact “massaging” and bad science tossed to the wind. Let’s give Dustin Racioppi the same leniency we give to all of the press since the corona craziness began.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi's own.

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