1 min

The ethics of paying for stories

Good journalism explores not only facts, but arguments and, more specifically, ethics.  

Recently, Gawker — a website I read daily, enjoy and have posted links to — posted an article in which they put out a call to see if they can find the person who infected Magic Johnson with HIV. Oh, and did I mention they’re offering money for this information? 

Which brings me to the point of ethics, or specifically, journalistic ethics. If you’re going to report a story, you want the information you receive, collate and put together to be as unbiased as possible. Yes, there is room for advocacy-based journalism, but not to the detriment of the story or the facts contained therein. In the case of this, I would be less likely to trust a) the source of the information (ie the person(s) being paid) and b) the news source publishing this information. Why? Because the money taints the information. If journalists pay people for information, the people doling it out can be pressured (either real or imagined) to suit their information to the person(s) paying the money.

I’ve been a big fan of Gawker for a while. Yes, I take it with a grain of salt, but it still provided a lot of interesting insights and stories. In fact, I’m a big fan of Rich Juzwiak’s personal blog posts about his recent coming out and understanding of his being gay. Heck, his blog about how gay men think baseball caps make them look butch is a great read (and funny, too). I’ve even interviewed former contributor Brian Moylan, who had some amazing stuff to say about the politics of cruising online.

But this? This is just unfortunate and a paltry excuse for journalism. Yes, my ideas and opinions on the subject may be a bit lofty, I’ll admit to that. But it’s just a bridge I don’t want to cross. 

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