The media has a great influence on how people think. That’s why it’s always important to get the facts before publishing or broadcasting anything. We have the power to create chaos if we want to just by simply spreading lies or exaggerating the news. And that’s simply irresponsible journalism.
But it’s a whole new story to take bribes or payoffs, writing for an individual or interest. When it comes to an exchange for money, things can get pretty sticky for writers published in a public arena. The issue has been a hot topic around since the advent of commercialized publications, but resurfaced with the recently closed Google-Oracle copyright case.
Earlier this month, presiding Judge William Alsup ordered both Google and Oracle to name the people, organizations, public commentators that they may have paid to write about the issues regarding the trial. The judge wanted to know whether anything that has been written about the case was “influenced by financial relationships to the parties or counsel.”
Oracle confirmed that they paid blogger Florian Mueller and Stanford University’s Professor Paul Goldstein. But even before Oracle’s revelation, Mueller already admitted that he has been doing consultancy for Oracle and stated that anything he wrote about the case was the same thing uploaded by Oracle on their site each trial day. He did not allow Oracle to see a copy of his writings or get their approval before publishing them.
Oracle also accused Google of hiring an extensive network of “attorneys, lobbyists, trade associations, academics and bloggers,” to influence “public perceptions concerning the position it was advocating throughout this trial.”
Google denied Oracle’s claims and did not provide the court names of possible paid influencers. They did, however, acknowledge that they have financial relationships with universities and non-profit entities, organizations to which it belonged or to which it had made contributions, bloggers and others who had adverts placed by its advertising program on their site, and had commented about the case, their own employees and contractors who might have commented about the trial, expert consultants and witnesses identified for the trial.
Judge Alsup wasn’t happy with Google’s filing stating that they could do better than that, even stating that if Oracle was able to do it, so can they.
Cash for coverage
Bribing the media isn’t anything new. According to the Center for International Media Assistance’s latest report, Cash for Coverage: Bribery of Journalists Around the World, by Bill Ristow, a journalist and international journalism trainer based in Seattle, revealed, bribing the media has now become a serious problem.
The report stated that around the world, media personnel are getting paid for as little as $20 to as much as $2000 for a positive media write-up. The funny thing, as the author stated, is that as a lot of journalists fight for press freedom, there’s little being done to curtail corrupt journalism.
Cash for coverage, or Dark Journalism as Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas calls it, is one reason you may read positive things about a corrupt politician or a questionable company. The person or organization in question may be paying off media men to spin a story to the public.
“It’s not an issue that’s much covered,” Alves said. “We have been so much engaged in defending journalists, that we become shy sometimes in uncovering or exposing this side of our craft.”
Ristow has a number of recommendations as to how corrupt journalism could be subdued like taking the time to conduct summits regarding cash for coverage, media outlets should be aware if their journalists are being bribed or extorted, pay-levels of journalist should also be documented around the world so as to determine if low salary is a factor is accepting bribes, organizations should focus on ethics training to establish the foundation of good journalism’s success in the changing media environment, as well as to adopt, publicize, and then stick to a firm policy of zero tolerance for any form of cash for news coverage – from simple “facilitation” payments to reporters to paid ads masquerading as objective news, and more.
A good example of this is the case of Malik Riaz, owner of Bahria Town , who allegedly bribed 19 senior-journalists of Pakistan to cover up the legality of how the land on where Bahria Town stands was acquired.
Bribery at its finest
And it’s not just about the media getting paid to report questionable stories but also about the media paying to get the scoop. Take for example the case of News Corp.’s tabloid The Sun. British authorities have arrested a number of people ranging from a police officer, an employee of the Ministry of Defence, a serving member of the armed force, and high-ranking officials of The Sun as well as current and previous Sun employees. They were all let out on bail with no charges, but the British authorities are still investigating as to how deep the corruption stems to.