Monday, November 22, 2010

Should Journalists Pay for Information?

BRETT FAVRE ALLEGEDLY used his cell phone to send images of his man parts to a former New York Jets sideline reporter. The website Deadspin paid $12,000 for the images and voicemails that Favre allegedly left the reporter.

Is there anything wrong with journalists paying for information?

"When you pay for a story, you're making a contract with the person who supplies it and that means you're no longer acting independently," Hagit Limor, the president of the Society of Professional Journalists, told the Washington Post. "People will say anything in pursuit of money. The public should assume you're reporting something because it's true, not because someone received money to say it."

Still, many news outlets find ways of compensating subjects of their stories, even if the compensation doesn't take the form of a direct payment.

If it is common practice, is it still wrong?

(Image via the New York Sun)

12 comments:

Ean Dunn said...

Just because something is common place doesn't mean it's right. Look at MLB for example. Most of the huge home run hitters of the 90's and 2000's: Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, and A-Rod all took steroids. Does this mean it is ok to take steroids? NO! Steroids kill your body and that is why they are banned in professional sports and banned in everyday life. This needs to stop.

The Wind-Wăker said...

It is totally wrong. How can a journalist or organization justify paying for information? Not only would the story be influenced by the public relations, but its not doing the job they're hired to do.

http://deeprootsstrongbranches.blogspot.com/

Jonathan said...

Common practice does not equate to being the right thing to do. To use an extreme example, slavery was once common practice in America, but I doubt you will find many people who say it is "right."

Paying for information, however, is much more of a grey area. Yes, some people will say anything for money, but if they do lie, wouldn't a reporter who is properly checking his facts find that out? Any responsible journalist should know to take nothing at face value.

Unfortunately, altruism is all too rare in this world. The journalist's first obligation is to the truth, but what happens when the truth has a price tag (real or metaphorical) on it?

Sarah Froehlich-Hull said...

I personally don't believe it is correct to pay for a story, because when there is money on the line the story will result differently. However, this issue also depends on the story. When people magazine paid for rights on Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's baby pictures, is that unethical?
(I believe that the couple was taking control over a paparazzi dream and a new parents nightmare.)

Coeli Danella said...

I think it might depend on the story. For example it's unknown whether or not Brett Favre sent these voicemails and pictures, but if the company buys the voicemails maybe they can decide whether or not it's true. I don't really know, but I mean I think it strictly depends on each story.

Matthew Albasi said...

Hold on. You can not, at all, under any circumstances, run parallels between this and SLAVERY. Even using the guise of "common practice."

I don't think the problem here is paying for information. In this case, when the information is tangible, I don't see any problems. It doesn't compromise the story.

If you have pictures of Favre naked, and you know for sure it is him, there are no disputes.

The only real problem that I can see is the precedent that this might set. I do not want to have to throw 50 bucks at everyone that I want to interview.

With that said, I think it can become a grey area in other ways. For instance, if I can not get an interview with a musician but i buy him a beer at the bar later, does that mean I'm paying for his interview? Is that wrong? What about if I get onto their tour bus with the promise of a case of beer? Or i slip the security guard 20 bucks to let me backstage?

There are situations where payment for information can be shady. However, instances like Favre's voicemails or gizmodo buying the iPhone4 are not. Tangible evidence begets tangible payment.

Alexis Wright-Whitley said...

Paying for a story is somewhat of a grey area, as many people already pointed out, but it comes to the bottom line; journalism is a business. Deadspin wanted to be the first to be able to release such information, creating a bigger audience, which would potentially create more money for the company. I do not think that a journalist should have to pay for anything, but if they want to be on top, they might have to.

Eleana Wehr said...

It's definitely wrong to pay for information. I feel like it represents poor journalism. It's like paying someone to write your paper in college or to take a test for you. It's not your work. I think it also sways the story or information then provided to the public. The images and voicemails could have been handed over with a few "rules" set in place along with the money, therefore creating bias and being untruthful in the story (Principles of Journalism).

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I'm not exactly sure if paying for a story is as bad as it seems. Just like we discussed earlier this semester Angelina and Brad were paid by People Mag to have there picture's of the twins. That wasn't too bad. Reality is people react to money ... and if that is what society has came to then you must adapt.
Perhaps regulations should be established for journalist who do decide to pay for stories

- Taisje Claiborne

Nicole Riley said...

I believe exactly what Hagit Limor stated. It is not independent journalism once a reporter or company pays for information. I understand journalism is a business, but paying for information takes away from the quality of the story because it could be completely made up. I would make up something interesting for a couple thousand! Paying for stories also provokes people to be newsworthy.

AND paying or information sucks the fun out of being a real reporter and snooping for the information!

Her Name Is Sam Kelly said...

NO WAY. Are you kidding me? That's dirty journalism.

Money should never be an issue. I think people can find other sneaky ways of getting information besides paying for money. When you pay money it changes things.

The bottom-line is THE TRUTH SHALL BE [set] FREE.

Giulia Valtieri said...

While it is true that paying for stories is tacky to say the least, some stories that the public should be exposed to would be unavailable if someone down the line hadn't purchased it from the original source. I just accept this as a way that some stories get exposed, but I myself wouldn't do it. It is unethical.