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Mayor-reporter link poses ethics problems

June 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two years ago, the mayor's marriage broke up after word of his relationship with a Spanish-language journalist made headlines. Now another reporter is linked to the soon-to-be divorced mayor, once again, raising questions about ethics in journalism.Tuesday, the mayor's staff has been rejecting questions from reporters, telling them that it is a personal matter and they don't want to make any comment. Yet there is a very important question regarding the public here: a question of conflict of interest, not of the mayor, but of the lady friend he is now dating.

On her Web site, Lu Parker posts an impressive resume: actress, model, a former Miss USA turned TV journalist for KTLA Channel 5.

Now the spotlight turns to the relationship with the man she has interviewed for the station. The relationship was reported by the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune company, which also owns KTLA.

According to the Times, Mayor Villaraigosa and Lu Parker have been dating since March.

We reached by phone Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute.

"There's every reason to question whether there are competing loyalties that create a conflict of interest that undermines the credibility of the watchdog," said Bob Steel, Ph.D., DePauw University, and Poynter Institute professor.

Steele saw the fallout when another journalist dated the mayor. Villaraigosa was still married two years ago when he had an affair with KVEA anchor Mirthala Salinas. It stirred questions about his character and the failure of the newsroom staff to disclose early on what he knew. The station hired Steele to conduct ethics workshops.

KTLA News Director Jason Ball told the Times: "Now that we're aware of the relationship, she will no longer be covering local politics."

Yet this weekend she read a story involving the mayor in the run for governor.

"It's unfair to other city officials, to potential opponents of the mayor, if he runs for governor for instance, to special interest groups who are opposing the mayor on certain issues," said Steele.

Steele says Parker, with her wording or inside information, might protect the mayor. "There is no concern as to the ethics whatsoever," said KTLA General Manager Don Corsini.

Tuesday afternoon, Villaraigosa said he did not want to make any comment on his personal relationships. He did say it is a distraction created by the media. He says he's focused on the running of the city. Also, no comment from Lu Parker.

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