Monday, January 11, 2010

Is It Wrong To Pay For Information?

CONSUMERS OF INFORMATION pay for that information - whether you receive it from a newspaper you bought, a magazine you subscribe to or the broadcast news for which you pay a cable bill. Even if you get your news online, you pay for your Internet service. Information is not free.

If it is understood that we pay for information, is it wrong for the content generators to pay for information as well?

Recently deceased sports broadcaster George Michael paid players and coaches on the Washington Redskins for information, according to the Washington City Paper.

“The fact is, a player deserves to be compensated if you use his name to sell it," Michael told the Washington Post in 1992.

"Checkbook journalism" has long been considered unethical. If you are paying people to tell you stuff, they are moved to say what you want them to say. They make more money that way.

The National Enquirer pays for information unabashedly.

"Paying for information is no different than what the police or other law enforcement do," editor Barry Levine, a 1981 TU journalism grad, told Politics Daily. "If the tip pans out and can be substantiated, then paying for information doesn't taint the process."

The National Enquirer doggedly pursued former presidential candidate John Edwards who fathered a child out of wedlock, while his own wife was suffering with cancer. They broke a huge story that could impact the nation and the world. The Politics Daily writer says that the National Enquirer deserves to win a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage.

What do you think? Is it wrong to pay for information?

And think about this for a second: if you are paying for information, aren't the news media going to provide you primarily with information you want to hear? Are you getting the full marketplace of ideas or are you being told what news media think will sell?

10 comments:

Brian Okum said...

While I think the practice is unethical in it's nature, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. I even see situations where its not only ethical but helpful, too. But it is a journalists' tool that has been abused.

It is unethical in that it DOES taint the story a little bit. It DOES change the neutrality of the story and makes it less natural. And is DOES damage credibility of both the journalist and the person being paid. This being said, I think it only becomes a real problem when journalists pay for hard news, especially when the people being paid have credibility to uphold > politicians, law enforcement, ect.

On the contrary I think celebrity interviews can be paid for because people widely view them as a commodity, and not something they expect to be neutral and real.

Anonymous said...

Amiable post and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you on your information.

Connor Showalter said...

I think paying for information is wrong (as someone who aspires to be a print journalist). I think paying for sources to talk with you, diminishes the journalist's integrity as well as the nature of the story. Who knows if the source is being truthful and if that person has good intentions?

I agree with what the last paragraph of the post states. (The source may just want you to believe they have the information you need, so they may receive the money offered).

I think good journalists should be investigative and curious. It doesn't seem fair to me if a journalist is praised for breaking a story because they offered the most money to the source.

Erica Hochman said...

I fundamentally believe that paying for information is unethical and will ultimately result in altered information and news. However, as the post states, journalists and news media are looking for what sells, which to me, incites another important moral dilemma. While journalists may be searching for stories that appeal to the masses, our definition of what we consider to be relevant news will evolve and change. Sensationalized headlines may tickle our psyche, however, is the information being presented really valuable? I feel that identifying which news is pertinent is out of our hands when journalists need to cover what sells. If journalists really are merely offering what we want to hear, biases and other skewed information will be presented. For example, journalists may take an ethnocentric approach to news stories just to please American audiences.

As journalism should provide the public with an effective linkage mechanism between people and the world around them, both near and far and accessible and inaccessible, the preferences and likes of the populous should not shape the way stories are covered.

Ian said...

I don't think that paying for information is completely good or bad. It really depends on what kind of information is being paid for, and how much money one is being paid to divulge said information.

If a media outlet is paying a lot of money to a source who is giving out false information, and said media outlet does no outside research of it's own to verify or deny that information, then it's obviously morally wrong.

However, if the media outlet is simply offering money for information to potentially important/interesting stories and happenings, it doesn't seem all that much different from the police's own tipline service to me.

Just because you're paying for information does not mean the news media will completely cater to everything you want to hear. Sure, there will probably be a lot of stuff focused on what the masses want to hear in their news, but there will more-likely-than-not be plenty of things that they need to hear in there, as well.

Francisco Ovalle said...

its unethical to pay for information, but there's no other way of getting it, is it? So, a journalist has to do his job, and if it comes to that...then be it. it all depends on the situation or the information your paying for...

Gillian Francella said...

While I feel journalists should be responsible for their own stories, I also feel that sometimes it's better to have a story with scrapbook information, than no story at all.

Meaghan Kane said...

I think that it is wrong to pay for such information, it just seems unethical but, in this day and age I'm not sure it is entirely possible to get information without paying for it. If a company is unwilling to pay for the information the client will just go to someone who will. This does make me question the stories because it gives the client more motivation to enhance the story but I also agree with what George Michael said, if you are using someones name to sell your information i think they deserve the credit and money. I think that based on the writer's opinion the work will be persuasive in a way and more partial to one opinion, in the same way paying for opinionated information should make the reader aware that it is swayed to one side and not put full faith in its truth.

Anonymous said...

Everyone get off their high-horse, whatever the story is worth, thats what i'll pay (if i do so choose to pay).

Sam Kelly said...

Money influences everything.

“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”
-Jim Rohn