Saturday, September 21, 2013

Conflict of Interest of Interest in Conflict?

Allie Dosmann

Paying for Sources

I thought that the most interesting article was "Checkbook Journalism’s Slippery Slope" because it raises intriguing questions that matter more than what meets the eye. It is easy to say without a second thought that journalists should not pay for their sources. It from the core just sounds wrong. I think the reason for the knee-jerk rejection is because involving money makes things sound corrupt, and for good reason. But what if involving money could do a lot of good? Why is it wrong to pay a nurse for her words because she thinks she will get fired if she is revealed and the cash you give her will help her survive while she finds a new job away from the corrupt location you uncovered with her help?

Something that this article did not touch on that may be my biggest concern is how paying people for stories gives them the incentive to lie. I don’t mean to sound like such a skeptic, but people will lie if it better fits their motive, and money is a great motive. If a journalist is going to base their story all on information that they paid for, are they going to make sure there is a contract signed that says they are getting the facts? What is the return policy for a quote if it isn’t completely factual?

Oklahoma State University

This immediately reminded me of the Sports Illustrated five-part series on Oklahoma State University’s football team called “The Dirty Game.” This series can be found here. The idea is that players were getting paid for their time at Oklahoma State University and this brought bigger players into the university and allowed them to get on the map for college football. The pieces seem to fit because OS did emerge as a strong football program, kind of out of the blue. The investigation took almost a year and Sports Illustrated claims to have interviewed 64 football players from the university. So what is missing? Nearly all of the players that were quoted in the article who claim to have been offered incentives to come to the university either did not pan out as elite athletes or were kicked off the team for misconduct. After the first part of the article was published, some of the big names from the university were blatantly appalled. One of them was Brandon Weeden, current quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.

In this article he brings in a whole other question of the conflict of interest from the writing stand point, and all of a sudden we have come full circle. I don’t know how to interpret this story, when the players that were quoted have some contempt with the Oklahoma State University and, therefore, would bennefit from controversy surronding questions of their integrity. From this standpoint it is clearly important to realize that "paying for sources doesn’t always come in cash form." There is also a conflict of interest because the reporter would not be against digging for a story that would destroy a university he hates.


Courtesy of google images

Corruption and conflicts of interest come in a variety of forms and like all other types of journalistic ethics, you need to decide where you are going to draw the line as a reporter. I think my skepticism is going to come in handy for me as a journalist. I am more likely to be concerned about what people think they will get out of telling me something than just run with the first source I hear from. I understand that Sports Illustrated did not take this case lightly given all the research they did beforehand, but why did they not get any big names to speak to them? This really makes me judge the magazine's integrity, and I do not think I am the only one. The fight for ratings should never outmatch the battle to stay true and fair.

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