Chequebook journalism

Chequebook journalism (or checkbook journalism in American English) is the form of journalism where the essential characteristic is that the journalist pays the subject of the work money for the right to publish their story.

The phrase "chequebook journalism" is often used derogatorily—the suggestion being that stories obtained by throwing money at people are not as worthy as those obtained by traditional investigative methods. Chequebook journalism is a symptom of the fiercely competitive commercial television industry in Australia (notably the current affairs programs), while in the UK, due to its geographic layout being conductive to the distribution of newspapers there, the print media thrives on it. It degrades the quality of the story that is for sale, by concentrating only on the "salacious, emotional and sensational" while leaving out parts of the truth that are more "awkward", to suit the tastes of the audience. Such stories are untested for their accuracy by independent journalists.

In the UK at least, chequebook methods are employed most often by tabloid newspapers—with the News of the World on the receiving end of the bulk of the criticism.

It is an inherently problematic way to get a story from a subject. Since subjects can expect to be paid higher for a more sensationalist story, it gives the subject motivation to exaggerate and misrepresent their story.

The rescue of the Australian miners in the Beaconsfield mine collapse renewed public awareness of chequebook journalism, as the TV networks and their stakeholders bid for the exclusive rights to the story as told by miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb, who were trapped underground for 2 weeks.

However, in defence of this practice, it is argued that the people involved in the story deserve compensation for their ordeal.

Examples of cases involving chequebook journalism include:

See also


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