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November 18, 2010

PRSA Submits Washington Post Letter to the Editor on News Outlets Paying for Sources

PRSA submitted a letter to the editor of The Washington Post in response to a Nov. 18, 2010, article concerning the growing practice of news outlets paying for sources, images and information, emphasizing the need for honesty and transparency in disclosing payments made to sources when information is obtained in that manner, per the PRSA Code of Ethics.

To Th
e Editor:

Regarding the Nov. 17 Arts & Living article, “Up for audit: 'Checkbook journalism' and the news groups that buy big stories,” about media outlets that pay for sources and tips:

Paul Farhi presents an excellent example of the type of fully disclosed, transparent journalism that enables readers to know and understand the motivating factors of how news is sourced and presented. His analysis of the proliferation of media outlets paying for sources, images and other bits of undisclosed news, in an effort to “scoop” the competition, increase website traffic or achieve some other end, presents the reader with the appropriate facts about where this contentious issue currently stands: that while some still object to “checkbook journalism,” there is growing acceptance for the practice — so long as reporters and media outlets acknowledge and disclose how they obtain their information.

News organizations, reporters and citizen journalists owe the American public openness, honesty and transparency in their reporting, which includes the disclosure of payment to sources when information was obtained in that way. It is only then that individuals can make informed decisions about the validity of the news they are reading, and the integrity and authority of the outlet providing the news.

Gary D. McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA
Chairman and CEO
Public Relations Society of America

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