Monday, November 29, 2010

Checkbook Journalism- Paying for Sources

For my presentation I looked at the ethical issue of journalists/networks/newspapers/magazines paying for information to get an exclusive on a story. Although journalist organizations and committees have guidelines there are no set laws allowing issues such as this to occur. It is our responsibility as professionals to obtain and report accurately and fairly, and not to "bid on news."

Through all the research I found that this trend is growing and is being used more than we all think. The money that is being spent is rising and these outlets are not shy to pay riches for reports. Media organizations such as Fox, ABC, NBC, The New York Times, LIFE etc have been accused of paying for news, but is it right?

The main case I covered was the ongoing trial of 24 year old Casey Anthony, accused of murdering her 2 year old daughter in 2008. This trial has made national attention very quickly and ABC jumped on board to make sure it would be ahead of the pack. ABC paid the Anthony family $200,000 for home videos and photos, making no attempt to make a public announcement while they were covering the case. Casey's attorney revealed the information in court, which brought many red flags to ABC. Many organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists commented that this sort of reporting is unethical and should not be tolerated, but it is happening so often and with all the money these companies have, is there a way to stop it?

ABC claimed the money was spent for the defense of Casey and not for an interview.

Not sure if we need to have our opinion but looking at this in a realistic manner, I believe that at this point there is no way to battle this sort of beast. Information is pricey and if someone wants the story bad enough it is going to get paid for by someone. I feel that as more people ask for big bucks the prices for news will continue to increase. I don't feel that a story is worth $200,000 but I don't have that type of cash either. Overall I feel that this issue is less harmless than some issues happening today.

Questions to consider

is it ethical to pay for information?

has journalism become more of a business?

how do you control something like this? Or can you not control it?

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Most of me is saying that we should, as journalists, be building relationships with people so that when an event occurs that people turn to you or your organization for exclusive coverage because they trust you to report fairly and accurately. On the other hand, people are always going to want to accept money.

    So even if you've built these relationships with people, someone might offer them $100,000 for exclusive coverage and tehy'll go with that option.

    I think this is largely due to the celebrity culture we live in. It's no secret that People and OK! are paying celebrities for their first baby pictures etc etc; this isn't really news, but we've come to group everything into the same category so now people think it's okay to pay for hard news coverage as well. I'm not sure there's anything we CAN do to stop it, unfortunately.