The Slatest

Sixty Percent of Americans Think Reporters Get Paid by Their Sources, Which Means I’ve Been Doing Journalism Wrong

A pair of hands presents a single dollar bill.
Maybe Mr. Washington here will change your mind.
Tetra Images/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Politico’s Michael Kruse highlights a surprising (surprising if you’re a journalist, I guess) result of a poll conducted for the Columbia Journalism Review by Reuters/Ipsos:

Now, it’s definitely not true that news reporters at anything that could remotely be considered a mainstream media outlet would take money from a source. But it is true that some journalists who cover subjects like travel, entertainment, and fashion have been known to accept paid travel, gifts, and “product samples” in ways that, as the saying goes, raise ethical questions. And it’s also true that sites like BuzzFeed publish both news articles and “native advertising,” which means running ads that look like regular articles (“11 Reasons Why Serving Taco Apocalypse Doritos at Your Game of Thrones Viewing Party Would Be Hella Dope,” etc.) except for a disclaimer. And it’s true that glossy monthly magazines give editorial control to their celebrity cover subjects because they need celebrities to pose for their covers to sell copies. And it’s true that executives at multiple high-profile news outlets have recently gotten bad press for killing damaging stories about powerful Hollywood figures for reasons that remain unclear. And it’s true that major tech companies—which have significant control over media companies’ traffic and advertising revenues—have been accused of throwing their weight around to squash unflattering coverage. And it’s true that the president of the U.S. and the publisher of the National Enquirer seem to have recently gotten busted exchanging positive coverage for business favors!

So, come to think of it, it probably makes some sense that some high number of respondents would say that some reporters get paid sometimes by their “sources,” given how much behind-the-scenes horse-trading does happen in the media and how broadly the survey’s wording could be interpreted! (For the record, per CJR, 25 percent of respondents said they believed reporters were paid by sources “very often” and 35 percent said “sometimes.” And lest you think that’s purely driven by Trump’s “fake news” rhetoric, the poll found that those numbers were 22 percent and 32 percent even among Democrats.)

But more importantly, given that all of you (Slate’s paranoid, conspiracy-mongering weirdo readers) apparently already believe I’m getting paid by my sources, I would like to announce that, starting today, I am willing to compromise the integrity of my blog posts in exchange for compensation by their subjects. It’s long past time that I started monetizing all this Herbert-Hoover-historiography and orangutan-in-a-doctor’s-office content in order to finance a second home!

Just kidding, I don’t even own a first home! Ha ha!