When I went to journalism school at the turn of this century, none of my professors thought to include a seminar on the ethics of Crackstarters.
We had seminars on the ethics of almost any other challenge we might encounter. But nobody predicted a time when alleged drug dealers would try to sell a video purportedly showing the mayor of Canada’s largest city smoking crack, and the mayor would pretend nothing happened and thousands of people would join together on the Internet to buy that video in the name of democracy.
Crackstarter is an Indiegogo campaign by Gawker, the website that broke the story of the video’s existence. They say if they can raise $200,000, they can buy the video.
There are good reasons why reputable news organizations, in Canada at least, do not pay their sources. Paying a source for information creates a conflict of interest, in which the source has a financial reason to tell the journalist what she or she thinks the journalist wants to know.
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