January the 25th, 2015
From where I sit On The Kowch, when you’re in media you don’t owe anyone anything when you don’t accept anything. Seems simple. But it’s not. That’s because there are so many ways you can end up with an IOU without taking money from someone. It’s basically referred to as a Quid Pro Quo – a favour or advantage granted or expected in return for something. Scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back. There are all kinds of terms for these IOUs. But the end result is always the same. Someone who gave you a scoop may one day call in the favour. Here are some examples of every day Quid Pro Quo in media.
The very nature of media puts everyone at risk in today’s age of political correctness and online gotcha journalism
As a reporter you cultivate contacts to become sources to give you the stories first. This is especially true for police reporters and political journalists at City Hall, provincial legislatures and Parliament Hill. Competition is fierce and you’re only as good as the quality of your sources.
People become sources for a variety of reasons. Some are whistle blowers – these are the ones whose only agenda is to get the word out of perceived wrong doing. But other sources have personal agendas. They curry media favour to boost their image, their reputation and career. These are sources that will come looking for you when they need media coverage as payback for all the stories they gave you in the past.
In this age of transparency, here is how to handle these kind of Quid Pro Quosources. Tell the boss who this source is, list the stories they have provided your news organization and say they will continue to do so in the future for the coverage they want. If the boss agrees it is a news worthy story or a good feature, there is no problem. If not, tell the source can’t do it this time, maybe next time. If the source cuts you off, well nothing lasts for ever. Move on and find another source.
In my day of covering the police beat and politics, I’ve had to juggle these demands from sources and keep my integrity intact – well I think I did. There might be some who would disagree. We’re talking about stories that police would ask me to write or report on to help them on a case or promote a new campaign or maybe be critical of a new directive or internal operations of the force.
In politics, it’s all about agenda of the political parties and their politicians – especially if they have a message they want to get out. Are we being used? Of course we are. Again that is how the game is played. But it had to be newsworthy. Opposition politicians were great at offering stories that would make the governing party look bad. If they provided facts and figures I would go with it. After all, I was the one out on a limb. Not the anonymous source.
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