Rosie Huntington Whiteley – Al Yidiz Swimwear
Among the many issues that Britain’s News of the World scandal is bringing to the forefront is one that’s been debated in journalism circles for decades: Should news media outlets pay for scoops and access to sources?
British and American tabloids have done it for a long time, but mainstream American media outlets have generally rejected it. Yet greater competition and the rise of celebrity gossip Websites such as TMZ.com and Gawker, which pay sources and often break major celebrity news, increase the pressure on other media to pay up or fall behind.
Television news programs say they don’t pay for interviews, but many do so indirectly. They bring a high-profile guest on the air for an exclusive interview after paying lavish sums for access to personal photos and videos, which they then air during the interviews. In 2008, for instance, ABC paid Casey Anthony $200,000 before a sit-down interview, supposedly for photos and videos of Caylee, her missing 2-year-old daughter.
Why not just pay sources and be done with it? Many media ethicists argue that paying a source taints that person’s information, creating pressure on the sources to aggrandize or exaggerate the information they know or the experience they underwent in order to make the payoff seem worth the money. Plus, encouraging everyone to expect payment before cooperating with media outlets could eventually limit the media’s – and therefore the public’s – access to important information while placing less-wealthy media companies at a disadvantage.
What do you think? Should paying sources for major scoops and access be a commonly accepted practice in mainstream American media?