So, I stumbled upon an interesting blog this week about journalists giving public relations advice to paying clients. This practice has been brought to the forefront of ethical issues as of late due to Dan Abrams leaving broadcast journalism behind to start a consulting firm. He will continue to stay on the NBC payroll, however, as an outside contributor.
Is it right for an Arizona Republic writer to tell a business how to get covered by the Arizona Republic, and then be paid for it? Doesn’t that feel like insider trading or something? At the same time, I have heard journalist tell PR people what works at their media outlet. Channel 3 here in Phoenix even sends out a tip sheet to PR professionals on how to get your story covered. I think what sends the situation of them giving this information out into sticky territory is that they are getting paid for it and are specifically catering to a clients needs. This is in contrast to telling general PR practitioners who may have a number of clients. As a client in Phoenix, wouldn’t you prefer to hire someone who knows the ins and outs of the Arizona Republic and may be able to affect its coverage?
This is a hot topic among professionals, some of whom are particularly vocal in their outright disagreement with the practice. But, before quickly writing it off as unethical, there is another side. We are in a journalism school, taking journalism classes and some would argue that we are journalists. I attend Society of Professional Journalist functions and professionals act like I am trying to steal their secrets.
Maybe I am.