On July 17th, 2023, the Board of Ethics staff and Board Chair, Michael Reed, had the pleasure of meeting with a group of Iraqi journalists, hosted by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia. As part of the International Visitor Leadership Program run by the U.S. Department of State, the journalists toured several cities across the country to facilitate a cultural exchange with professional counterparts and government institutions of interest. Within the group of twelve, the journalists had experience in political correspondence, independent online news, NGO press outlets, TV broadcasting, radio production, investigative journalism, and freelance writing. For their stop in Philadelphia, they specifically asked to speak with the Board of Ethics, hoping to better understand the role of media in promoting government transparency and integrity.

Board staff members and Chair Reed began the visit with a brief primer on Philadelphia municipal government, the structure of the Board, and an overview of the types of laws within the Board’s jurisdiction. The journalists were interested in the unique posture of the Board as an independent City agency that relies on City funding. They also asked about the modern challenges of tracking money in politics, and whether the Board’s work intersects with the criminal justice system.

Given their professional backgrounds, the visitors were keenly interested in the role of the media in government transparency. Board staff explained that while the Board and press both have roles in sharing information related to public integrity, the data that is most meaningful to Board staff and practitioners in the public integrity space is often too technical or abstract to catch the interest of the general public. Even the Board’s disclosure platforms, such as the Philadelphia Lobbying Information System or Campaign Finance Dashboard, are most frequently used by those already interested in or knowledgeable about those programs. Journalists, particularly those who focus on government, are often in a position to identify areas of public interest and distill complex or voluminous information in a more reader-friendly and engaging form. Conversely, news outlets may be a source of information about activity that may be subject to enforcement. The visiting journalists commented on the importance of an informed press to serve both these goals. In that spirit, the Board of Ethics and its staff wholeheartedly thank their visitors for their time and interest in government ethics.

For more information on the work of the Board of Ethics, visit www.ethics.pub.