Jane Doe, a senior person at a public relations agency, with expertise in one industry, has begun freelancing for a major newspaper. The articles do not disclose Jane's corporate affiliation; rather a generic description of Jane is given at the end of each article ("Jane Doe, an expert in ...., is a --- consultant"). The topic of the articles do relate to Jane's clients at the public relations agency (i.e., article topics are in line with the industry focus). Specific companies are not named in the articles and it isn't possible to say if Jane is indirectly promoting her clients' goals because the public relations agency does not disclose a list of client names, although it is clear that one client is a government-related agency.
Jane is using her public relations agency email address for her articles work, and is interviewing experts for her articles during "normal" work hours.
It seems to me that this is an ethical conflict of interest. If I'm employed by a university, say, and write articles on the side about my experiences as a bird-watcher (and, just to be clear, there's no orthinology program at the university), there's no real conflict. But if I'm employed as a university administrator and write articles about, say, the pros and cons of tenure, it seems to me that I have to disclose my affiliation.
My take is that, in Jane's case, there is the appearance of conflict and, what's worse, even if there isn't a conflict, there's a lack of transparency about her corporate affiliation. Yes?
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a public relations professional who's somewhat horrified by this type of breach. While getting a hold on any vindictive element in defense of my profession, I also wonder if it would ever be appropriate to notify the newspaper (this assumes that they don't know, and would care).
Thank you for your time.