Among the mainstream media, they call it checkbook journalism and it is frowned upon as highly unethical. “Money can corrupt almost anything it touches,” explains the Society of Professional Journalists, “and that certainly includes the news.”
Ethics notwithstanding, the legal blog JD Journal announced this week that it will now pay for “quality” news leads. In a press release, the site said the move was being taken “in order to better serve its readers.” The press release continued:
JD Journal will pay $50 and up per lead if the story is used on the site. The leads should be anything related to law firms, law schools, lawyers, law students, and other people and organizations involved with them.
JD Journal is owned by the same company that runs LawCrossing.com and EmploymentCrossing.com. The CEO of these companies is Harrison Barnes, managing director of BCG Attorney Search. Barnes was the subject of a post last week at Above the Law that took him to task for an article he wrote.
JD Journal responded with a post asserting that the ATL post was a competitor’s retaliation for its announcement that it would pay for news.
JD Journal’s motto is, “Nothing but the truth.” But the Society of Professional Journalists maintains that paying for news undermines the truth.
Paying for information immediately calls into question the credibility of the information. Readers or viewers have a legitimate right to wonder whether the source is disclosing this information because the information is important or because the source is getting paid for it.
They also can’t be blamed for wondering whether the source is telling the outlet the truth, telling the outlet what it wants to hear or embellishing the truth to increase the value of the information. If good information is worth so much, better information, true or not, would be worth more.
[Full disclosure: LawCrossing once profiled me as a “Law Job Star.”]