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Being paid to write a feature on someone or something

by on December 5, 2016

Over Thanksgiving break, a friend and I had a debate about whether or not it is ethical for a reporter to be paid by a person or a company to do a feature on them. My friend argued that during his internship with a Costa Rican newspaper he was paid to do a feature on a yoga business.

I argued with my friend that I would never do that because of the ethical issues of being paid by a company to write a feature for them, while he argued that he was just doing his job and that is how the world works. I obviously understand that journalists must be paid but through their news organization not through a third party that is looking for a puff piece. My friend argued that it was simply advertising for the company and that by paying to have a feature written about them they were paying for advertising.

This brought up an interesting point to me because in a time where advertising dollars in newspapers has dropped significantly, what is a new way for newspapers to make ad dollars? Companies would much rather advertise on social media, where it’s cheap and reaches a large number of eyes. Should newspapers be open to new forms of advertising where they are paid to take a tour of a park, company, etc…? Or do the ethical issues such as conflict of interest stop that from happening? Is it even any different than just having a print ad on the side of the page?

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