Selling out for the scoop


The speed of news dissemination has reached such a fevered pitch that it isn’t just money or influence that can corrupt a journalist’s better judgment. Now, a simple scoop will do the trick.

The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post’s with United Airlines. According to FAIRNESS AND ACCURACY IN REPORTING (FAIR), the airline offered the three newspapers a scoop about its planned merger with US Airways, but only if the editors promised not to contact United’s competitors or consumer groups, even if only to lend balance and context to the story.

Washington Post financial editor Jill Dutt told FAIR that the deal was entirely defensible because getting a possibly one-sided story a day earlier was of more importance to readers than getting a balanced and accurate story a day later.

Dutt further said that she understood why the airline’s executives wanted to get their story out to “investors … before you get all the naysayers.” To that, FAIR editors wrote, “It should go without saying that it is not a newspaper’s role to facilitate companies’ corporate strategy, or to protect them from ‘naysayers.'” But some basics of good journalism go without saying for so long that editors like Dutt and her cohorts at the Times and Journal apparently forget them entirely.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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