For generations, ethical news organizations have had a rule that they will not pay for interviews. Why? Because people who want money for telling their story tend to be willing to tell whatever story the reporter wants to hear, as long as they get their money. It corrupts the entire news-gathering system. Among journalists, it’s called “checkbook journalism,” and it’s usually said with a snarl.
So it’s disturbing to see this article about a “story broker” who’s basically laundering the money so that news organizations can play the “checkbook journalism” game while pretending they’re not. The broker gets a tip, signs an agreement with the “source” for exclusive rights to market him/her to the media, then shops it to the networks, which comfort themselves with the idea that they’re paying “licensing fees” for photos and video. Or perhaps paying the middle man to be a “producer” or “consultant.” Whatever they call it, it’s deceptive and should stain the reputation of any network program that engages in it.
We depend on the media to help us see through the deceptive practices of lobbyists, agents and others who skirt the rules. The last thing we need is for these “watchdogs” to be doing the same thing.