Monday, September 26, 2016

Journalists Paying For Sources' Information

Sarah Parker

Paying for Information

We, as journalists, know that paying a source to give us information is highly unethical. So why do journalists still do it? Exclusive information.

If someone is willing to pay an important source for information that they are not giving to any other news outlet, they've got the exclusive, and, probably, the most readers because it is information they haven't seen anywhere else.

And from now on, that source is going to go to that reporter because they will deal out the big bucks. 
Sure, having the upper hand and the exclusive story all sounds great, but, at its core, paying a source is just plain unethical. 

The Codes

The Society of Professional Journalists' codes even address this issue in one of their four codes
It states, "Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not. Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage."

The codes exist for journalists as a guide to being the best journalist you can be for yourself, your organization and the public you serve.

By paying for the news you report, you are not acting transparently or truthfully.

Becoming Biased

If a source begins to be accustomed to being paid for their inside information, they can then be influencing you to tell the story from a different angle, maybe to protect the image of themselves or their organizations. They could ask that certain facts or quotes be left out in exchange for more of their information.

If this happens, you are no longer being an accurate and truthful reporter. The news can become heavily biased if money is exchanged between sources and journalists.

Once you're biased, you are not being ethical anymore.

Our main focus is to serve the public, and if we're not giving them every side of the story, all of the information we have, why are we doing it? It is not true and ethical journalism anymore. 


Arguably, one of the worst things to happen to a journalist during his or her career is to lose all credibility they have worked so hard for.

Imagine that it gets leaked to the public that you have been paying your sources for information, what happens to your credibility as a journalist? It's gone. You are no longer trusted by the public to be an ethical reporter.

Next, you could lose your job. News organizations do not want a journalist working for them that has lost all credibility. 

We Are Better Than This

We must hold ourselves and other journalists around us accountable to be ethical. As public servants, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. If you are not willing to put in the work to do honest and ethical reporting, you do not have what it takes to be a journalist. There are journalists in the field right now who are paying public figures, public officials, lots of sources for their information. But I challenge the upcoming journalists like myself not to go into this field with the mentality that acting in a way that is unethical just to get ahead is acceptable.

We can change this mentality!


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