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A Reporter’s Responsibility

Today I am publishing a deep dive into Big Game Forever (BGF), its leader, and the relationship between that leader and various entities that are receiving government contracts as well as donations due to their nonprofit status and advocacy. I know that in doing so, some readers will be angry – not because I report on unanswered questions but because I dared to ask the questions at all.

Investigating and writing these pieces is not an especially pleasant task but seeking the truth and reporting it is my job as a journalist. As I investigate and write, the person who is the subject of my reporting is foremost in my mind, and I treat these subjects with respect.

Treating someone with respect does not shield that person from questioning about complex issues involving public interests. Once I had unearthed the available public records about BGF and its related parties, I approached BGF’s leader for an interview. I also requested the organization’s governing documents, conflict of interest policy, and financial documents. I am disappointed that I’ve yet to receive a reply to any of my inquiries.

The lack of publicly available information about BGF and its financial arrangements is what causes questions to remain unanswered. Many nonprofit organizations use their websites to provide information to the interested public, even including the posting of their audited financial statements. Another hunting advocacy group, Safari Club International, posts both their Form 990 tax filings as well as financial statements. These statements provide many of the details that were lacking in the BGF case, including details about related party transactions.

My last step before publishing the piece was to once again review the code of ethics put forth by the Society of Professional Journalists, conducting a mental checklist on both my investigation and the final story. Only after being satisfied that I had met that code did I publish the story.

Read Part One: Profiting from Wildlife Controversy in Utah

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