Ifill courts a second, lesser, conflict of interest tonight. Millions of viewers will be tuning in. That’s millions of potential book buyers. Ifill’s not a household name. Tonight is a marketing opportunity to raise her profile and be a part of the Election 2008 story. With a book due in January, there’s a natural temptation to make a star turn of her own. I can certainly think of certain TV journalists/personalities who would succumb.
That’s not to say that journalists who cover elections shouldn’t write books on elections. But should they be moderating televised debates while writing said books? Maybe I’m too suspicious. But one can’t help but suspect that Ms. Ifill was on some level aware of the problem. As we’ve learned, she didn’t take it upon herself to inform the commission of her literary efforts and let the chips fall where they may.
Update: I just heard Chris Wallace suggest that she should disclose to viewers that she has a book coming out on Obama. Millions of free advertising dollars dressed up in the guise of “journalistic integrity”? If I were her publicist, I’d tell her to go for it!: ”I’m Gwen Ifill of PBS. In the interest of full disclosure, I want to alert viewers that I have a book coming out on the stunning rise of Barack Obama due in bookstores January 20th, Inauguration Day. It’s also available right now on pre-sale at Amazon.com.”