Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The repugnance of paying for your raw materials: journalists and news stories

The New York Times has an op-ed by Kelly McBride (described as a "media ethicist"): When It’s O.K. to Pay for a Story

"JOURNALISTS frown on paying sources. This decades-old principle stems from the belief that the tawdry practice corrupts the authenticity of information: If I pay you to tell me your story, you may distort its details to up the value.

"So last week, WikiLeaks disturbed many journalists with an initiative to crowd-source a $100,000 “bounty” on the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
"Setting a bounty on the treaty text turns journalistic mores on their head. In traditional newsrooms, the idea of offering a cash incentive for the leaking of confidential documents is anathema. But WikiLeaks, like other media disrupters, leaves us no choice but to reconsider this prohibition. If journalism organizations refuse to do so, they relegate themselves either to secondhand reporting on documents obtained by those outside journalism or to being left behind.
"In practice, there has long been a gray zone in the media industry. British tabloid newspapers have a long history of “checkbook journalism,” while some American TV news shows have often paid large sums for certain material..."

1 comment:

dWj said...

In the context of kidneys, you've noted the argument that there are non-financial forms of coercion and reciprocity that should be no less troubling than the pecuniary form; similarly I think certain venerable reporters have been played with information that has been heavily spun for non-pecuniary reasons as well.

The analogy that favors the "ethical" standard -- the cynic in me finds it interesting how many professional "ethical" standards are essentially anti-competitive, incidentally -- is torture, in which a person being tortured has, at least in the short term, the same incentive to reveal false (or made-up) information as to reveal true information.