Disclose Much?

A reader wrote in asking about the propriety of a subject that had arisen last week in CQ when a reporter quoted her father’s organization. Here’s the back story:

CQ‘s Rachel Van Dongen is distinguishing herself on the tax beat. Rachel has held a number of journalism jobs, including reporting for The New Republic, the Economist, the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Times, and was political editor and a senior staff writer at Roll Call.

Last week she had an article about an obscure little corner of tax rules called “last in, first out,” or LIFO for short. It quoted Jade West, the senior vice president for government relations with the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors.

Rachel’s father, though, is Dirk Van Dongen, the president of said National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW).

The reader thought that salient fact might be worth mentioning somewhere in the article, and wanted to know if the editors at CQ knew about the conflict?

We talked today with Anne Q. Hoy, the executive editor for daily news at CQ, who says the CQ has “extraordinarily high standards” for its reporters, and that traditionally a reporter is not allowed to write on a subject where a spouse or family member has a stake.

In this case, the article was assigned at Hoy’s request and Van Dongen had reported it out before it became clear that NAW had any role in the debate. Aware of Rachel’s potential conflict, they examined the quote and debated removing it but in the end decided to leave it in.

“It was a not a controversial quote. It did not make a prominent quote — it merely said what their stand was,” Hoy explained.

As for the future, Rachel will not be quoting NAWD in further articles.