Via J-Source comes this blog post from Frank Moher complaining that the big TV outlets paid big money to Paul Pritchard, the guy who shot the video of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski being Tasered at the Vancouver airport. Dziekanski later died from injuries he sustained during the incident, and that has prompted an investigation into Taser use by police.
Normally, paying for news is outright prohibited by journalistic ethics codes. The reason is simple: It encourages people to make news for profit rather than report on events for altruistic reasons.
The media’s response is that Pritchard was a freelance journalist, who sold his footage just like any freelance reporter would sell a story to a newspaper or magazine. He wasn’t directly involved in the incident, and he had no ulterior motive other than to expose what happened.
The ever-growing field of freelance journalism, where regular people are contracted and paid for individual stories rather than employed as a part-time or full-time journalist, provides for a certain loophole in these areas. Instead of paying a source for an interview, you can pay a “contributor” to discuss a topic with a news anchor, or pay a “columnist” for insights into insider politics or whatever else they might specialize in.
How do we separate the ethical from the unethical payola? And which side does Paul Pritchard fall on?