Chamber president resigns

Craig Daily Press Assistant Editor Christina Currie, at the request of the newspaper's editor, resigned Thursday as president of the Craig Chamber of Commerce.

Laura Elder, Daily Press editor, cited a potential conflict of interest as the reason for asking Currie to resign from the Chamber's board.

Chamber of Commerce board members, at their regular meeting Thursday, elected local real estate agent Stacey Mathers to replace Currie. Mathers had previously served as the board's vice president.

Currie said she was disappointed about leaving the board.

"While I understand the reasons and the community's concerns, I believe wholeheartedly in the Chamber and have invested my heart in helping it to grow," Currie said. "There's definitely a thin line between being an active community member and a journalist. Being both is very important to me, so I try to do both as ethically as possible."

Elder, who became editor of the Craig Daily Press in October, said Currie's involvement created a potential conflict for the newspaper.

"It was a difficult decision to ask Chris to step down as president of the Chamber," Elder said. "Chris is involved in several organizations and has a real commitment to the community."

Elder said that though Currie always has disclosed her position with the Chamber and refrained from writing about the organization, her position with the group was an apparent conflict of interest.

Annette Gianinetti, the Chamber's executive director, resigned from her position in December. Her last day with the Chamber is Jan. 20.

Elder said she became concerned about potential controversy at the Chamber after Gianinetti's resignation.

Gianinetti, however, said she resigned to spend more time with her family.

Currie will remain involved in other organizations in the community. But Daily Press reporters are encouraged to avoid groups with political ties or that might take sides in a controversial public debate in which news reporters need to stay neutral and objective.

The Chamber of Com-merce is charged with being an advocate for business and represents 374 member businesses.

Daily Press publishers historically have been involved in public organizations such as the Chamber and the Moffat County Tourism Association.

Publisher Bryce Jacobson, who began work at the Daily Press this week, said he plans to be involved in community organizations.

But there is a difference between publishers and reporters, he said.

Although the publisher oversees all aspects of the paper, including the business side of the operation, reporters are expected to relay information in an unbiased fashion, he said.

Most newsrooms and journalism trade groups have strong and clearly worded policies about reporters' affiliations with groups, Elder said.

The Society of Professional Journalists is resolute in the notion that journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know, Elder said.

The society also insists that "journalists avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived, and remain free of associations and activities that could compromise integrity or damage credibility."

"We don't in any way believe Chris did anything wrong or compromised the newspaper's integrity," Elder said. "We just want to avoid any potential conflicts of interest and protect the credibility of the paper."

But Pam Thompson, vice president of the Chamber board, said she didn't think Currie's position with the Chamber and at the newspaper created a conflict.

Thompson said she was disappointed to see Currie resign.

"It's unfortunate because she did a fantastic job for our board," Thompson said.

Thompson served as the board's president before Currie.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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