In my opinion, one should act independently by trying to avoid conflicts of interest. If an organization offers you any favor such as free food, you should definitely consider the reasons for such treatment. Are they trying to compromise your coverage of them? While it’s possible that they’re just be courteous if it’s a cup of water, something more expensive such as a lobster on the house should raise eyebrows.
A journalist should not go to extremes such as not voting, which is something private, but should refrain from public activities such as participating in political protests or putting a lawn sign of a candidate in their front lawn. We as journalists must know it’s impossible to be 100% unbiased. Fo example, we all have a gender, thus when we report on something related to gender, we will tend to have more insight on the gender that we are. Most of us define ourselves as being of or lacking a certain religion, but that doesn’t mean we should exclude ourselves from a story dealing with religion. It’s unavoidable that there may be times when someone with close ties to your news station, such as a sponser or an worker of the station, is involved in a news-worthy event. While a news station may fear backlash from the person being reported on, it has to remembered that our main duty is to our audience, not any individual. One could judge whether to report about someone by questioning whether they would report on it had it been a stranger. News stations shouldn’t have double standards for anyone.