Sunday, September 22, 2013

Money Talks

Tyler Butler

Pleading the Fifth?
Is paying for sources a necessity for getting information, or rather an easy way to get the story done? As a journalist, information gathering is one of the most important aspects in the job description. Paying for sources isn't exactly new and while it might seem like a quick solution to a problem, it will only lead to ramifications in the future.
Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty. Click image to expand.

                    Running on Credit
Those who pay for sources would argue that sometimes the only way to get a source to talk is with money, and that’s probably true for them. Once a source finds out they can get paid to leak information, why would they do it for free? In an attempt to make money, sources might also fabricate information. If they are talking to a reporter to get paid and not for the greater good, nothing is stopping that source from telling a reporter what they want to hear instead of the truth.  A journalist’s credibility is one of the biggest traits they are judged on. Once that credibility is tarnished many sources will not want to be involved in their reporting, leaving that journalist having to pay for sources.

The Flip Side of the Coin
Many sources will often pay for news outlets to give them media coverage, introducing an entirely new moral dilemma. Having money tied up in a story makes it hard for journalists to report on an event fairly. They have pressures to promote the business in a positive manner so that business will continue funding the paper, but at the same time they want to be as honest with the reader as possible.

Small, financially struggling news outlets are more susceptible to this kind of problem. With local business bidding for stories, they have to decide if that kind of story would be considered newsworthy, and if publishing a story that promotes a business would make them lose integrity with their readers. Whether a newspapers decides to run these stories or not, the best thing they can do is be completely transparent with its readers. If the company is an affiliate of the paper, that should be stated.

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