NEW YORK (AP) — As NBC News Group chairman, Cesar Conde, is already busy overseeing the community’s broadcast and digital…

NEW YORK (AP) — As NBC News Group chairman, Cesar Conde, is already busy overseeing the community’s broadcast and digital information operations, together with CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo and NBC-owned native associates.

Yet the chief additionally has a second paid job. And a 3rd — as a member of Walmart and PepsiCo’s company boards. The association has raised some moral issues, and divulges a possible blind spot for a information enterprise normally very severe about conflicts — actual or perceived.

CNN’s new chief executive, Mark Thompson, chairs Ancestry.com’s board. And though Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, proprietor of The Washington Post, isn’t a journalist, the newspaper reminds readers who he’s when writing about Amazon. Former President Donald Trump has eagerly identified Bezos’ twin roles.

A former NBC News government, Bill Wheatley, lately questioned the propriety of Conde’s exterior company roles at a time when the information division’s management is already underneath hearth for the hiring and quick dismissal — following a workers revolt — of former Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel as a contributor.

“It appeared to me that this was an extra occasion of NBC administration not understanding the principles by which information leaders are purported to play,” mentioned Wheatley, who retired in 2005 as NBC News’ government vice chairman and has carried out work as a information marketing consultant since.

Conde was on the Walmart and PepsiCo boards earlier than he took over as NBC News Group chairman in 2020. The NBC News chief earned $275,018 from Walmart in 2022 and $320,000 from PepsiCo, in a mixture of money and inventory, in keeping with Salary.com.

NBC wouldn’t remark to The Associated Press on the matter.

NO EVIDENCE OF ANY EFFECT ON THE NEWS

There’s no proof that Conde has been concerned with any NBC tales involving the 2 firms. NBC pointed to a 2021 Wall Street Journal article the place the community mentioned he would recuse himself from any reporting on the businesses.

Generally, journalists work arduous to keep away from any state of affairs the place a battle may very well be alleged, even when the battle itself doesn’t come to cross: Did reporters, for instance, write optimistic tales on a company {that a} boss is concerned with, or ignore dangerous information as a result of it would anger a superior? Perception might be as necessary as an precise battle; some journalists go as far as to not even vote in an election that their outlet is overlaying.

This holds true inside NBC as properly. Among different guidelines: The enterprise community CNBC that Conde oversees forbids its journalists — and their spouses — from proudly owning inventory for these causes.

Recusal is an efficient step, Wheatley says, but it surely doesn’t treatment the battle.

“In a great world, I believe information executives ought to keep away from conditions like this,” mentioned Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and regulation on the University of Minnesota. If the state of affairs can’t be averted, it’s necessary to reveal it and clarify the businesses will face reporting that takes place “with out worry or favor,” she mentioned.

Kelly McBride, senior vice chairman and ethics knowledgeable on the Poynter Institute, the pre-eminent journalism assume tank, agrees that the state of affairs isn’t very best. At the identical time, she says, “we don’t need executives or anyone in journalism to be a clean slate.”

Leaders in journalism have historically labored their approach up the ranks however that’s not at all times the route anymore. Conde succeeded in company, not information, roles at Univision and Telemundo earlier than getting his present job. CNN’s Thompson was a high government on the BBC and The New York Times. At the latter, his greatest achievement was extra in enterprise than journalism, shepherding a profitable digital transformation.

CNN wouldn’t talk about whether or not Thompson is paid for his Ancestry.com job. Representatives for the corporate, a non-public one not obligated to reveal salaries, didn’t reply to a message. The Glassdoor jobs web site estimated administrators at Ancestry are paid in the same six-figure vary because the Walmart and PepsiCo jobs.

Thompson has recused himself from any information involving Ancestry or different genealogical corporations, community spokeswoman Emily Kuhn mentioned.

ABC this spring appointed Debra O’Connell, a longtime government on the community and its company proprietor, the Walt Disney Co., to a place that oversees ABC News. O’Connell’s background is in gross sales and advertising and marketing. She has unpaid positions on boards involving National Geographic and the A&E Networks, each corporations affiliated with Disney.

HOW DO JOURNALISTS APPROACH THIS SITUATION?

It’s arduous to make assumptions about how journalists will cope with figuring out the boss has curiosity in a specific firm.

It’s human nature to wish to keep away from issues, though McBride notes that some contrarian journalists who wish to show their independence would dive proper in. For instance, The Washington Post in 2021 analyzed government data for a narrative on the hazards confronted by Amazon warehouse staff.

Because NBC wouldn’t deal with questions on Conde, it’s not clear whether or not anybody at NBC Universal signed off on him persevering with along with his paid board positions.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are two information corporations with conduct codes that particularly discuss such roles. The Times says workers members “could not be a part of boards of trustees, advisory committees or related teams besides these serving journalistic organizations or in any other case selling journalism schooling.” The Journal says its workers “could not function administrators, officers, advisors, buyers, consultants or companions of any firm or enterprise dedicated to profit-making.”

Other conditions are murkier. ABC, CBS and Fox News mentioned its information leaders don’t serve on paid exterior company boards, however couldn’t or wouldn’t level to insurance policies that forbid the follow.

The AP worker handbook says that “we keep away from addressing, or accepting charges or expense from, governmental our bodies; commerce, lobbying or particular curiosity teams; companies or labor teams; or any group that might pose a battle of curiosity.” Neither AP President Daisy Veerasingham nor Julie Pace, AP’s government editor and senior vice chairman, sits on any exterior boards, a spokeswoman mentioned.

It would make sense for information organizations to clarify insurance policies about service on exterior boards, and description procedures whether it is allowed, Poynter’s McBride mentioned. “I don’t assume it was a lot of a difficulty previously,” she mentioned. “The nature of stories corporations has gotten rather more sophisticated that it’s prone to turn out to be a difficulty sooner or later.”

News organizations are additionally left to resolve for themselves learn how to alert readers or viewers of potential conflicts. The Post typically makes clear its proprietor’s ties to Amazon when writing concerning the firm; a September 2023 story about office security included this disclaimer: “Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.”

The Post is aware of it’s being watched. Trump has known as the newspaper the “Amazon Washington Post” on social media and wrote on Twitter in 2018 that “The Washington Post is nothing greater than an costly … lobbyist for Amazon.”

On NBC”s “Nightly News” final July, reporter Jacob Burns reported a narrative about how Walmart was utilizing synthetic intelligence to assist inventory its cabinets and alter the roles of a few of its workers. Burns quoted an organization spokesman saying that AI wouldn’t lead to job losses, and a enterprise faculty professor who expressed some skepticism about that.

While Conde’s NBC company profile mentions his affiliation with Walmart, it was not included as a part of Burns’ story or in a handful of digital items which have run concerning the firm.

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David Bauder writes about media for The Associated Press. Follow him at

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