No price tag on getting news in, or out

By David Stevens

How much does it cost to “de-advertise” information?
Readers have offered to pay me to report information that might not otherwise be reported. And some have threatened to sue me for reporting information they didn’t want to see reported. But until Saturday, no one had ever offered to pay me to not report information.
A man who said his name appeared in the court records (he pleaded guilty to a criminal act) made the offer. He called it an offer to “de-advertise.” He did not ask for himself, he said, but feared the court disposition might reflect badly on the non-profit youth organization with which he is involved.
I won’t tell you the man’s name because I did not warn him that I might write about his request.
As for how much does it cost to “de-advertise” information? We don’t offer that service at any price.
The only things for sale in this newsroom are darkroom supplies we used to use for processing photos.
Buying them won’t keep your name out of the paper, and it won’t get your name in the paper, but maybe the equipment can help you start your own newspaper.
• • •
In 23 years of newspaper reporting, I’ve had several opportunities to accept payment from special-interest groups. Most “rewards” come in the form of T-shirts, caps, free admissions and food.
But sometimes promoters offer cash in exchange for coverage.
I once received a $100 bill in the mail at my house. The anonymous note said the payment would be weekly if I would write more stories about auto racing.
Unable to return money to an anonymous donor, that $100 ended up in a Christmas charity fund.
Reporters often argue they should not have to return inexpensive gifts from news sources because refusal to accept them can cause those sources to have their feelings hurt. We don’t like to hurt people’s feelings.
Some newspapers have written policies that allow reporters to accept small gifts so long as they have no effect on objective news coverage.
In general, our newspaper:
• will accept free passes to events we plan to report on, such as the county fair or a sporting event. But we don’t allow staff members to use such passes for pleasure.
• will not accept any gift of any value in exchange for reporting information (or for not reporting information).
If you would like to say thanks for news we’ve reported, we prefer kind words to cash.

From the Editor’s Desk is a weekly memo to CNJ readers. David Stevens can be reached at 763-6991, extension 310, or by e-mail:
david_stevens@link.freedom.com