Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cost of Doing Business

Taylor Zanville

Mark Felt, Edward Snowden, Linda Tripp. Look at how they paid for whistle-blowing.

After studying Communications, Public Relations, and Journalism for five years in college I have come to learn a lot, but I learned a few new things after reading Deborah Potter's article, Maybe Its Not So Obvious, and Ray Chittam's article, Checkbook Journalism's Slippery Slope. We have all heard about stories regarding corruption, whistle-blowing, and buying news stories, but did we know how many people there are that actually participate in these typically unethical negotiations? 

Loopholes are being created and utilized, rules are being bent and sometimes deliberately broken. There is a quote from the United Kingdom's Trevor Kavanagh at The Sun that shows much hubris, admitting, "Sometimes money changes hands. This has been standard procedure as long as newspapers have existed." The two journalists that fit the bill of someone who could not care less about morality or ethics are definitely Kavanagh and Keith "Rupert" Murdoch, a proven Australian-American journalist turned businessman. Murdoch has plainly claimed that he supports "checkbook journalism" and that money has been provided to whistle-blowers that give his staff beneficial information. Of course money is a very enticing motive, but is this some sort of dramatic film or television show? 

Ethically, money would never change hands and the news would be told in an honest, credible, informative, and non-malicious fashion. Everyone has different concepts of morals, principles, and ethics, but is there a way to get us all on the same page? The spectrum is wide and contains a lot of questions along the way, with heavy checkbooks on one side and news anchors who report on their own personal interests on the other. There is no definitive line for reporters and other journalists to cross because the line is different for everyone, especially those that are amateurs and not specifically educated or trained individuals in the field.

What happens in situations where professional camera-ready staff catch something of value that they want to share? On the other hand, what happens if an amateur or random citizen catches something important on a cellular phone or random video feed? The latter would be tempted to sell their video to the highest bidding news outlet; why would they not? They are not bound by any laws or ethical obligations to anyone other then themselves. Professionals know plenty of ways to bend the rules and get what they want on the air without breaking any specific laws. 

In the examples provided in our Maybe Its Not So Obvious reading, reporters covered local tragedies and news stories that served their personal interests. A journalist who had partial ownership of a nightclub covered the fire of that specific venue, which due to the fact that there were no safety violations or fire regulations broken, would improve its financial standing once the issue was handled. How are these issues going to be solved?

There truthfully is no way to figure it out. Whether we are talking about the difference in amateur versus professional media outlets or experiences. The fact that there is no specific line drawn in the sand makes it impossible to solve this seemingly hypothetical situation. Credibility and ethics are put at risk when we pull out our checkbooks and cover self-improving stories. The key is to find the line and not cross it, but where is that line?

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