Are cash journalism awards unethical?

Crazy lefties are up in arms about a $2,500 award given to Le Devoir journalist Alec Castonguay by the Conference of Defence Associations, a military lobbying group. J-Source has some more details about the controversy.

The argument is that this award, which is given to journalists who write about military issues, is essentially a bribe for providing the industry with good coverage. The association is hardly going to award journalistic work it considers biased against it, after all. Knowing this, journalists might be tempted to skew their reporting in favour of the industry to boost their chances of getting the award.

Though the motives of the lobbyist group may be honourable, strict ethical standards should force respectable journalists to reject the award and especially any cash associated with it.

But what’s not mentioned is that the CDA’s award is hardly the only cash prize given to journalists by non-journalism industry associations for a specific type of coverage. A quick Google search gives me these:

Should we look down upon journalists who receive these awards as well?

My knee-jerk answer is yes. Journalists should be honoured to be recognized for their achievements when judged by their peers. They should be thankful for recognition from industry. But they shouldn’t accept money from non-journalism groups – even non-profit ones – when they present a clear conflict of interest.

But then I’ve never received such an award, and probably won’t any time soon, so it’s easy for me to sit here and judge.

One thought on “Are cash journalism awards unethical?

  1. Perihan Magden

    What do you say about actual researchers who receive – after applying for – grant money from such outfits as CIHR, NSERC, etc, for research in the areas supported by those particular agencies?
    It’s one thing to receive grant money to continue pursuing research or journalism in a particular area – these agencies don’t have a vested interest in the results of projects.. the results won’t directly affect them, or sales of their product. It’s another thing to receive money to promote the use of products (e.g. pharmaceuticals), which, in turn, can affect the revenue of the sponsors. I think ethical research can still take place in those cases – and how would things get tested if researchers refused to test them – just that more care and awareness on the researcher’s part may be needed to consciously avoid bias.

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