Tag Archives: Oscar Pistorius

Paying For The News in South Africa

By Casey Bukro

Journalism in one form another is going on all across the world.

Sometimes it’s not quite recognizable as we in the United States know it. Makes you think.

In South Africa, the grieving parents of slain model Reeva Steenkamp hired a British agency to manage media organizations that will pay the Steenkamps a fee for their story.

That’s called checkbook journalism, and considered unethical. The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics urges journalists to “avoid bidding for news.”

Barry and June Steenkamp said they resorted to the fee-for-information approach because they were “overwhelmed” by the number of media organizations across the world that wanted interviews.

The Cape Argus reported that while many look askance at the practice, “there is sympathy for those caught in the middle of of a so-called media circus and who succumb to the pressures of interacting with journalists seeking an exclusive interview.”

Olympic athlete and boyfriend Oscar Pistorius was charged in Steenkamp’s death.

Paying for news was at the root of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. phone hacking and bribery scandals.

In that case, a culture of checkbook journalism led to bribery charges against four former News Corp. journalists.  News Corp. also closed its News of the World in the wake of a phone hacking scandal.

The Columbia Journalism Review calls checkbook journalism a “slippery slope.”