‘Invitation To Corruption’ Ethical Red Flags From Major News Outlets

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The Hill newspaper, for instance, which is funding events at both presidential conventions, offers sponsors special treats such as an opportunity to mingle with “a list of participants from politics, government, media, and industry,” at what they term a “Thought-Leader Luncheon.”

Full-day partners who pay $200,000, apart from joining policy discussions at a Policy Brunch or enjoying the company of political influentials and media personalities at a Primetime Watch Party, can count on convention interviews with The Hill’s editorial staff, for “up to three named executives or organization representatives of your choice.”

“These interviews are pieces of earned media and will be hosted on a dedicated page on thehill.com and promoted across The Hill’s digital and social media channels,” a brochure, obtained by The Intercept, reads.

“There are a lot of ethical red flags here,” said Jim Naureckas, editor of the journalism watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, cited by the Intercept.

Naureckas argues that referring to interviews as “earned media” may indicate that these so-called advertorials are intended to be indistinguishable from actual news coverage.

“If so, The Hill is operating as a straight-up PR agency,” he said.

Convention sponsorship packages offered by The Economist include sharing lunches and dinners with policy experts from the newspaper and its subsidiary CQ Roll Call, The Intercept reports, citing a web page advertising the packages. The newspaper notes that discussions will be livestreamed and that an interview segment will be recorded following the event.

Many newspapers and magazines, including Politico and The Atlantic, have turned to sponsored events to attract influential people, including members of Congress. Journalists, delegates, and companies have lined up to sponsor these gatherings.

“My impression is that paying for journalistically greased access to bigwigs is now routine,” Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, told The Intercept. “Journalists should be covering conventions. Selling access to their leadership strikes me as an invitation to corruption.”

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