SeanPAune

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December 13 2009

Bribing An Ethical Journalist Only Gets You Mocked

ethicsI am not sure I have ever been as insulted as I was  last night.

At 5:48 p.m. last night I received the following e-mail:  (emphasis theirs)

Hi Sean, I am with [redacted site name].  I have a question regarding your [redacted article link] article.  I’m sure you get requests for this all the time, but we would love to be considered for placement in the article as we are a community of independent artists and offer many mp3 downloads, free and legal.  I believe we are an excellent resourse and are a very relevant site to the article.  I know, since the article was already completed a while back, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go back and change something, so we would love to compensate you for your troubles.  And to make sure you know our site is legit, by all means, check it our for yourself.  Here is our main [redacted link] page, which is sub-categorized by genre.  Please let me know if this might be possible.  Thank you for your consideration.

Yes folks, someone offered me a bribe to get placement in a list I did about 18 months ago.

I replied with:

For future reference, no legitimate journalist would ever accept compensation for such an act.  You need to learn how to approach writers before you do yourself any more damage.

Believe me, I had more to say, and most of it wouldn’t have been re-printable if I hadn’t edited myself.

The idea that I would ever accept ‘compensation’ from a third-party for inclusion into a piece of my work disgusts me to my very core.  As I have said many times before, I never attended any form of journalism school, but I think just about any one with half a brain cell knows that you do not make an offer such as this.  And hopefully every journalist would know not to accept it.

I have no delusions about being a serious journalist, but I at least attempt to be an ethical one.  This is part of the reason the whole FTC disclosure guidelines thing annoyed me so much as I am already ethical without being threatened into it.

All that being said, I cannot believe someone would actually attempt this.  Who in their right mind just out and out offers what amounts to a bribe to a journalist?  Perhaps they are new, hence why I have opted to conceal their name and site address, but you would think common sense might kick in and say, “Hey, maybe this isn’t a good idea.”  Whatever the case may be, offering ‘compensation’ to a journalist of any type is reprehensible.

Some have said tech journalists being given gadgets to review is a form of bribe, and to those people I would ask, “How do you expect us to review the product if we have never seen or used it?”  Do you want us to write reviews strictly from the biased press releases and professionally shot photography?  Isn’t a move reviewer getting to see a movie early and free the same?  “Well, I watched the trailer and this movie looks amazing, go see it.”

However, I digress, don’t try bribing me, it won’t end well for you.

And, just a note to anyone else who ever ponders doing this: If you try to bribe me to be added to an article, I will publish your name and mock you publicly.  This serves as the one and only warning anyone will ever receive on this matter.



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  • Louise Jones

    Compensation is hardly a bribe. Aren't you just the high minded, moral compass for a new decade? I think you've probably been insulted more than this – a lot.

    • Ms. Jones,

      Offering compensation for coverage is indeed a bribe, and unethical. Coverage should always be based on its own merits, never on "what'll you give/pay me?"

      And moral compass for a new decade? I'm sorry, but this rule of journalism is as old as the profession itself.